The Reasons for Conservative Dominance in The Period 1951 to 1964

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About this sample


Words: 914 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Nov 15, 2018

Words: 914|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Nov 15, 2018

Conservative domination for the 13-year period between 1951 and 1964 is arguably largely a result of the economic prosperity which swept Europe throughout the same period, and equally managed to irradiate the need for a socialist labour party as the lower classes become middle class consumers. It is argued, however, whether simply the public notion of ending of austerity which had plagued the country since the war lead to conservative dominance rather than Conservative leadership strength or Labour’s clear disunity.

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An economic rise throughout the nation, mirrored in Europe, is indisputable. The sense of a ‘Golden age’ was felt by many as wages rose from only £8.30 in 1951 to £15.35 in 1961, an almost 100% increase which allowed the Conservative party to introduce policies which marked an end to austerity measures, such as ending red meat rationing and living up to pledges to build 300,000 houses per year. As such, the conservative party, due to economic success, was able to continue providing and often increase the policy elements of the Atlee legacy, referred to now as the Post War Consensus, to provide a welfare state with social peace. As a result, the conservative party were able to distance themselves from the 1945 Churchill rhetoric which laughed at a welfare state as well as effectively diminishing the purpose for the labour party as they now accepted the work of the labour government before. This, combined with the increase in the middle class, again due to the rising economy, made the socialist agenda of labour feel out of touch. Further, the Conservative government even went as far as to introduce the NEDC, an agency designed to allow government intervention in the economy through regulating wages and income, suggesting there was true acceptance for a planned economy. It is argued; however, these economic policies were slowing leading the issues of stagflation as demand pull inflation, which occurs when consumers have more to spend so demand increases, was increasing prices while growth slowed to half that of other European nations at the time. Despite this, the electorate did not perceive these issues until later as their own standard of living continued to rise and the government managed to successfully play budget politics, economically pandering to voters who were less lightly to vote for them very soon before an election. As such, it seems clear Conservative dominance is largely down to the increased prosperity people experienced, in contrast to the years of austerity, which created a political climate with no space for drastic, socialist change.

Within the same period, Labour was arguably so divided on their place on the political map, due to Conservative’s acceptance of the Atlee legacy, they were unfit as an alternative. Divisions ranged from whether to accept nuclear unilateralist disarmament, whether to increase the welfare state beyond the Beveridge report and ultimately if Labour should embrace socialism or act as a more centrist party. Gaitskell sided often with the later, the name Butskellism uniting the Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer with the labour leader, while Bevan, a welsh labour member, attempted to drag the party leftwards. The divide can be drawn down to a difference in interpretation of Clause 4 of labour party’s constitution which called for workers to have the ‘full fruits of their industry’ and suggested ‘common ownership’, both socialist statements to which Gaitskell wanted to amend, despite strong opposition from Bevan and his supporters. Further, the period saw social change, due to the Conservative’s welfare state policies, which meant lower class workers who would have before supported the Labour party decreased and those who were left saw a disrupted, ununited party. As a result, Labour struggled to provide competitive opposition to the conservative party, however, arguably this division was simply a result of losing hallmark labour policies due to conservative acceptance of the Atlee legacy, suggesting labour division was simply only another result of economic prosperity which allowed conservatives to accept the welfare state.

A strong contributor also to the 13 years was the strong, tactical leadership of first Churchill, Eden and Macmillan, popularly known as Supermac, a name he embraced which he turned into a publicity success. While Churchill did lose the election in 1945, by 51 he, along with the conservative party, had accepted the post war legacy as he realised the country was more open to more socialist welfare state after war times. Although before out of touch with this shift in public opinion, they party embraced it openly throughout the years 1951 to 1964, which helped put the Labour party further into a state of irrelevancy. While the Conservatives did have leadership issues with Eden, who organised an attack on the Egyptian canal in collusion with Israel instead of negotiating, the party was largely successful as brushing off this publicity nightmare. Macmillan, in contrast, was a figure of resounding strength, style and composure, while also accepting elements of the post war consensus. As such, clearly conservative strength left the electorate with little doubt in their leadership which impacted on the conservative strength in the period.

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To conclude, clearly conservative domination throughout the period occurred for a multitude of reasons, most notably due to accepting the post war consensus, ending austerity, having strong leadership and having little, ununited opposition. Yet, arguably, each of these elements were possibly simply because of the economic prosperity Britain faced throughout the years, which allowed for Conservatives to provide a welfare state without enormous left wing associated tax increases.

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The Reasons for Conservative Dominance in the Period 1951 to 1964. (2018, October 26). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
“The Reasons for Conservative Dominance in the Period 1951 to 1964.” GradesFixer, 26 Oct. 2018,
The Reasons for Conservative Dominance in the Period 1951 to 1964. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 15 Jul. 2024].
The Reasons for Conservative Dominance in the Period 1951 to 1964 [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2018 Oct 26 [cited 2024 Jul 15]. Available from:
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