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Economic Success Was the Most Important Reason for Conservative Electoral Dominance in the Period from 1951 to 1964.’ How Far Do You Agree?

In: Historical Events

Submitted By Pollypocket
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In 1951 Churchill was voted in with a 17 seat majority which what can only be described as an ‘Indian Summer.’ Future elections would increase this majority to 100 seats by 1959. A contributing factor to the dominance of the Conservatives was the unelectable Labour, yet the Conservatives did have a strong leadership in their own right. Another important factor in the Conservative dominance was the domestic policy of housing, however, this would not have been possible without the introduction of the economic policy of credit. Therefore, it was the economic policies under the Conservatives, which were the most important reason for their dominance. The introduction of credit was an intricate part of their dominance, allowing money to be borrowed on ‘easy-terms,’ designed to stimulate a sluggish economy, its success can be shown through the sale of cars, which quadrupled from 1.5 million to 5.5 million. This won votes with the electorate since it supported Churchill’s initial claim when the Conservatives came into power that they would put the welfare of the people at the centre of their policies. It also continued the social mobility that had occurred since the war, closing the gap between the ‘haves and the haves not,’ as Butler suggested. However, it could be argued that the Conservative’s economic policies were not as successful as they appeared and were not the basis for Conservative dominance, since the British economy was sluggish with only a GDP of 2.3% in comparison with the 5.6% GDP of the EEC country of Italy. However, it should be noted that the veil of respectability credit provided the economy meant that the electorate were not aware of the lower GDP. Moreover, Britain was not in decline, since there was growth, which in self was a success compared with the not too distant times of war austerity, therefore its success can be linked with Conservative dominance. Labour weaknesses arguably cultivated Conservative dominance, Labour experienced an identity crisis during the 1950s, and this crisis resulted in not only party divisions but also weak party policies, as illustrated by the 1959 where Gaitskell proposed a reform in state pension. However, questions were soon asked about how this would be financed which embarrassed Labour candidates, leading to a further loss in seats in the General election in 1959 of 19 seats, since it proved there was incompetent leadership which could not be trusted with a fragile post-war economy. However, it could be argued that it was the strength of the Conservative leadership, which ensured their dominance. While Gaitskell was cultivating an increasingly confusing image of Labour, Macmillan sought to use a media a campaign that saw his personal opinion poll increase from 40% to 70%. This was successful since Macmillan had managed to create an image of modernity despite his age, and reverse the satirical view of him as ‘Super-mac.’ By using the radios and televisions of the consumer boom to cultivate this media image reminded the electorate of how their quality of life had had increased under the Conservative’s economic polices. While, Gaitskell did Another factor which argued to have been a factor in their dominance was luck, rather than actual politicking, luck that their elections did not coincide with the with times of a slow economy or disaster such as the 1957 Suez Crisis. Suez had swollen Britain’s debt by over £500 million, resulting a debt over $4 billion despite the good of the British only being worth $850 million. The metaphorical, damage that Suez also caused a decrease in the moral of the British, and served to confirm their status as a declining superpower, therefore it was unlikely had the next general election been in 1957 that the Conservatives could have maintained their dominance. Yet, it could be argued it was not just luck in the avoidance of elections did not caused the Conservative dominance but it was the tactical politicking of the economic budget, often known as budget politics. Used most notably by Chancellor of Exchequer Heathcoat Amory in the 1959 elections he decreased taxes and interest rates in an economic policy in order to encourage an economic boom of spending, which convinced the electorate of that they had had greater wealth under the Conservatives. Finally, it could be argued if the Conservative government had not employed a policy like the reduction of taxes in preparation for the 1955 and 1959 elections, then the failures in foreign policy could have been held up to greater scrutiny in the long-term. The use of tax relief in the short-term almost justified these failures to the electorate, which provided Conservative dominance. In conclusion, while the Conservatives did have an unelectable opposition and luck in the way the elections fell. It was the fact success or sometimes the appearance of success of the economic policies, which ensured their dominance. This is further suggested by how the British the support of the Conservatives in 1964 election waned, when it became obvious that the government had a trade deficit of £800 million pounds, which contrasted to the significant rise when the electorate believed that the British economy was successful, proving how the dominance of a the Conservatives and the success of the economy were inextricably intertwined.…...

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