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What was the post war 'consensus'?

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What was the post war 'consensus'? The following years after the World War Two were known as 'post war consensus years'. The consensus was the agreement between the two biggest political parties at the time; the Labour party and the Conservative party. The term was used to describe the 'social-democratic' supremacy that was happening in Britain between the years of 1945 until the late 1970's. Over the years it was seen as a time for great political unity and prosperity following the tragic events of World War Two and also a time for both parties to contribute themselves into combining policies which would be similar in ideology in both the social and economic fields respectively. Despite the fact that at some points both parties disagreed on certain issues but in the long term it would become a strong basis for the British political agenda for almost a very long forty years. In 1945, the Labour party claimed victory in the general elections to lead the British government. ...read more.


Many critics have often argued that Atlee was not overly Socialist at first but was under great influence of the great economist John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946). Keynes believed very much in the expansion of the welfare state. He also believed of a 'state financed system of social security accessible to all citizens and state responsibility for the growing economy.' Not only this but he also thought that the 'government should be more active in introducing regulations and controls aimed at influencing prices and wages, rather than just implementing economic policy in an attempt to prevent recession.' Not everybody agreed with Keynes theories and certain divisions were made between parties at the time too. The successes of the consensus meant that both parties' ideas were almost identical but then again still there were differences. As much as Atlee did for the British government during the consensus years Hugh Gaitskell replaced him in 1955 who would now run the labour party. Gaitskell was different to Atlee in many ways, he also believed in the welfare state and most labour ideology but worked more effectively than his previous successor. ...read more.


In conclusion, the consensus years has been approached differently by many critics in different manners. There are those who say it existed and those who say it did not and that the earlier governments only acted out of pity and consciousness for the people at the time. However, had it not happened then the establishment of the National Health Service would not have been done, nationalisations of companies would not have occurred. Living standards would not have increased either, the general public were living with much ease compared to those years when the depression was at its worst and it was in 1951 that Prime minister Macmillan made his famous speech of 'most of our people had ever had it so good.' Political writers like Peter Hennessy have often argued that 'consensus' is too strong a word to use during that particular era and what it implied was 'social harmony and an absence of conflict' between the major parties and was more in favour of using 'post war settlement' as a result of deferring political views. ...read more.

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