Explain The Political Changes Of The 1940s

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The aftermath of World War II ushered in an era of unprecedented political change. The allies had won the war and upheld democracy against a fascist regime. During the war, the economy experienced exponential growth. With victory came the hope and a vision of prosperity for all. As Britain transitioned from a war time economy to a peaceful one, many were adamant in leaving mass poverty and unemployment of the 1920’s and 30’s behind. The public interest in a new way of running the government meant that the conservative agenda was thrown out the door. It meant meant taking a democratic collectivist vision for Britain's post war future. The political changes of the 1940s is best understood as launching a distinctly modern political settlement. …show more content…

Labour believed in implementing a welfare state, measured by the Keynesian principles of a mixed economy. These principles called for substantial management of the economy and full employment. Management meant nationalisation of major industries such as the Bank of England, civil aviation, transport, electricity, coal and steel mills, the construction industry and the health sector, among other utilities. In 1942, the liberal economist William Beveridge composed a report in which he outlined the major issues plaguing British society, mainly, poverty, unemployment, disease, poor education system and low housing standards. To address the Beveridge Report the Attlee government introduced social security, cradle to grave welfare with the implementation of the National Insurance Act (1946) and the National Assistance Act (1948), as well as the creation of the National Health Service (NHS) in 1948 (Lowe, 1999). …show more content…

Resulting in a setting of common policy between the Conservative and Labour party. The policies implemented by the Labour government between 1945-51 laid the bases for consensus. However, the concept of consensus has its limits. Major discontinuity and contestation existed regarding policies toward the economy, welfare, unemployment. Consensus politics represented a compromise and broad agreement on certain aspects of public policy. The economic interest of the country in regards to the tenement of a mixed economy was seen as ideal, Keynesianism was seen as important in promoting full employment. The conciliation of the trade unions and commitment to the welfare state based in order to promote ‘social citizenship’. Finally, Britain’s changing position in the world was seen as inevitable, as a result both parties felt a need for Britain to take a step back from its foreign policy as an empire, which ultimately meant decolonisation. The Industrial Charter: A Statement of Conservative Industrial Policy was a 1947 policy statement by the Conservatives in which the party made a commitment to accept the economic and social policies introduced by Labour. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rab Butler commented that he and Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell may have, “spoken the language of Keynesianism. But we spoke it with different accents and a different emphasis.” (Dorey, 2009)

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