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To What Extent Was There A ‘Post War Consensus’ In British Politics From 1951 To 1964?

945 words - 4 pages

To what extent was there a ‘post war consensus’ in British politics from 1951 to 1964? (900 Words)
Whether or not there truly was a ‘post war consensus’ in British politics from 1951 to 1964 is a highly debatable topic of which historians can often appear to be in two minds about; on one hand, Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson infamously described the period as ‘Thirteen years wasted’, whereas historian Robert Blake (a supporter of the Conservatives’, regards it as a ‘Golden age of growth’. The likes of Kevin Jeffrey’s even argue that consensus had even started before the war. Overall, the central issue was the idea of a mixed economy.
If we were to argue that there was indeed a post ...view middle of the document...

Factors such as these would add to the argument against the notion that there was really a sense of post war consensus between these years, despite historian Paul Adelman describing Churchill’s policies as ‘cautious, conciliatory, and undogmatic’, and Paul Addison suggesting that Churchill ‘led the conservative party towards the middle ground of politics.’
Socially, there was indeed a more general feeling of unity national unity after the war. This would mean that wartime coalition ministers from all major parties were far more willing to cooperate with each other. Paul Addison (1975) argued that pre-war and wartime conditions led to a unique situation in post war Britain which led to a coming together of thinking in politics and society. This was strongly influenced by the Beveridge Report’s ‘Five Giants’. As mentioned before, this cooperation was also aided by the fact that fears of an extreme Labour government in 1945 had been disproved, meaning that key policy makers in the Conservative Government could be seen to be ‘One Nation Tories’; keen to build on national cooperation to maintain and essential post war consensus. Another fundamental aspect of post war consensus was the idea of the necessity of a ‘Big Government’; many Conservatives were now convinced of the government intervention in social and economic policies, resulting in them being far more in tune with public opinion and so accepted Labour's welfare policies such as Keynesian economics. With regard to Winston Churchill, his government were seen to indeed follow Keynesian economics, but with more so of an emphasis on the role of the market.
Maintaining full employment in Britain was of huge importance in the concept of post war consensus. Conservatives wanted to avoid being seen once again as the "party of mass unemployment", a key issue that led to their loss in...

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