To what extent can the period of Conservative dominance between 1951-1964 be viewed as 13 wasted years?

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To what extent can the period of Conservative dominance between 1951-1964 be viewed as “13 wasted years?”

The labour government in their 1964 party election manifesto described the period of 1951-64 as “thirteen wasted years” because they thought that period brought chaos. This is in contrast to the optimism that Macmillan had of the period stating that the people had “never had it so good.” He also told supporters to "Go around the country, go to industrial towns, go to the farms and you will see a state of prosperity such as we have never had before". This

could be true in regards to social, economic and political factors especially considering that rationing had ended and there was full employment during this period which in turn increased the purchase of consumer goods such as TV's, refrigerators and cars which were being produced in the UK. Therefore to thoroughly understand to what extent the period of conservatism dominance was viewed as 13 wasted years we need to look at the successes and failures of the economy, society and the political aspects of the time.

The optimism that Macmillan had when he said that most of our people have never had it so good relates to the fact that the country was riding high on post war economic boom; there was increased production in major industries such as coal and steel; the only industries notably affected negatively by unrest were ship-building, mining and the docks which only employed 7% of the population. There was also an explosion in technology combined with a number of generous budgets, had created a surge of growth, seemingly leaving the people more prosperous and with more things to spend their new found wealth on. Wage, exports and investments were all up for example wage rose by 72% this had positive effects on the economy as it increased spending on consumer goods. Therefore this shows that the conservative dominance between 1951-64 should not be viewed as 13 wasted years as the economy was getting stronger.

Despite the boom however, there were still concerns about inflation and the dilemma to maintain growth and employment. In the period 1951 to 1964 there was uninterrupted full employment with productivity faster than any other period in the century. Total production increased 40 per cent; real average earnings increased 30 per cent. Car consumption increased from 2 to 8 million whilst television saw a rise from 1 to 13 million. MacMillan consistently hid the balance of payments problems in stop-go economic short termism and sterling devaluations. The economic boom had basically led to the economy becoming 'overheated and needed cooling', a result of the rise of wealth that required Conservatives to reduce government spending, increase bank rates to help lower demand with the aid of strict taxation. They had to deal with this carefully as it was the boom that had significantly assisted their stay in power and provided these increases in living standards.

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Moreover, the Conservative economic policies of this period were accused of being too concerned with macro policies that supported rapid growth but failed to develop policies that directly improved economic efficiency and looked to developing the economy in the long term, with adverse effects on international competitiveness, leading to problems. Apparently "It was a government of Tory wets for whom social harmony was a higher priority than economic efficiency." (Addison. 1992) This therefore shows how the conservative dominance can be viewed as 13 wasted years as despite the boom there were major problems with economy.

Even though Labour described ...

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