How far was the strength of conservative leadership the main reason for their political dominance of the period 1951-1964?
From 1951 to 1964 the conservative government won 3 general elections and spent 7 years in power. From 1951 to 1955 Winston Churchill was the leader of the conservative party, from 1955 to 1959 Anthony Eden held the reign of the party and 1959 to 1964 Harold Macmillan was the leader and they all became Prime Minister. The conservative run ended when Douglas Home became the leader of the party and lost his election to Wilson. The factor of strong conservative leadership strength is important when discussing why they were politically dominating but there are other factors which we can also judge as potential main reasons for why they were in power for seven years.
Conservative leadership from 1951 to 1964 can be argued to be one of the main reasons for their political dominance. Churchill led the party and was very favourable with the public because he was a key individual who helped in the efforts to win the Second World War and was seen as the best for the job because of his experience. He had a great cabinet which included R.A Butler (chancellor and deputy Prime Minister), a key figure helping Churchill when he was ill. This may have made Churchill look more like a figurehead than an important authority considering that Churchill was 77 years old when he was elected for the second time. Anthony Eden was a much younger and attractive individual who gained a lot of support from younger voters but especially women. In despite being a well-liked leader who was in control of his party, his reputation perished from his actions of the Suez crisis and he also tarnished the reputation of Britain, making the once powerful empire now look expendable. The Suez crisis started when Nasser took control of the canal which was the main export of British oil and he fought back and then quickly withdrew making the British forces look weak. Harold Macmillan was best known for his TV appearances, made him victim of many satires. He is best known of his ‘never had it so good speech and also ‘wind of change’ which mentioned the loss of the British Empire but he attempted to convince many that Britain would soon recover and leave its period of post war austerity. However his term ended on a negative which brought scandals to the media’s attention. Coverage of conservative scandals came out which damaged the reputation of the party which swayed the public opinion to them not supporting the conservatives because they were being dishonest and deceitful. This included the Russian spy scandal and Profumo affair
Douglas Home became leader of the conservatives because Macmillan selected him using the tory boy network. He didn’t want Butler to succeed him. However this method of selection showed the public that the conservative were traditionalist
Labour division can be argued to be the strongest reasons to explain the conservative dominance in the periods 1951-1964. The most notable divisions of the labour party is the struggle between the Bevanites (fundamentalists) and Gaitskellites (revisionists). Bevan supported the left of the party and believed that Britain should be a socialist nation with state control. They also believed that unions should have more power and influence of the development of the party. However the Gaitskellites believed that
Another issue which split the labour party was the nuclear policy. The left of the party wanted nuclear disarmament so the money which was saved could be used on social reforms instead. Anthony Crosland from the righht of the party emphasised that focus should be on social equality rather that economic change. The uncertainty of the labour unity isolated the public from the party. Their ideas and manifestoes weren’t appealing because they were unclear and showed that the party were having internal problems which made them an unlikely party to lead the country.