To What Extent Was There a ‘Post War Consensus’ in British Politics from 1951 to 1964?
927 words 4 pagesTo 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 war consensus in British politics from 1951 to …show more content…
Conservatives wanted to avoid being seen once again as the "party of mass unemployment", a key issue that led to their loss in the General Election in 1945. As well as this, it was clear that trade unions were now able to exert their power and influence due to the nationalisation of industries such as coal and railways, and because of this, even the Conservatives wanted to maintain a cooperative relationship with them, thus establishing them as an extremely important factor in a so called post-war consensus.
To argue in favour of Harold Wilson’s statement that it was indeed ‘thirteen years wasted’, you would have to look at any lack of investment in key industries, failure to manage economic growth, control rates of inflation and the national balance of payments. This can be looked at through the fairly visibly inconsistent stop-go form of economy, a political state arguably fuelled by the failure to join the European Economic Community. Productivity was clearly low in comparison to foreign competitors, and it is arguable that both political parties put too much of their intervention in propping up failing enterprises, and that constant inflation issues were the result of their emphasis on full employment. This contrasts the idea that Britain was in an ‘Age of Affluence’ post-war (a concept hugely prevalent during Macmillan’s leadership), but this was perhaps because economic decline was seemingly relative. From an