13 wasted years

Topics: Conservatism, United Kingdom, Economics Pages: 2 (908 words) Published: October 21, 2014

In regards to the economy, there can be seen to have been some notable successes, indicating the years may not have been entirely wasted. The country had been transformed from the austerity of the previous Labour government to one of growing prosperity. Britain enjoyed high interest rates, low inflation, cheap readily available goods and full employment so much so that Prime Minister declared in 1957 that Britons had “never had it so good”. The people had access to good which had never been available previously, and the 1959 election was dubbed the “washing machine election” because of this. This is certainly a period somewhat unique as unlike the 70s and 80s, Britain did not experience a recession. Therefore it can be argued that the 13 years were not wasted in regards to the economy, as successive Tory governments managed to keep the economy healthy. However, although on the surface the economic situation looked promising, in reality the 13 years of Tory rule were unable to stem Britain’s relative economic decline. Chancellors across this period often employ a system of “stop-go” economics whereby the economy is tinkered with strategically in order to make political gains. This occurred in 1959 when Chancellor Butler gave tax cuts of £134 million to the middle classes just in time for the election. Although this was politically successful it was not wise, as after the boom came the inevitable bust, leaving the economy weakened. In addition, the Conservatives governments continued the post-war policy of appeasing the trade unions. For instance: when Macmillan was faced with striking railwaymen, he increased their pay by 5% instead of the recommended 3%. This avoided confrontation but was economically unsustainable, as seen by the strikes in the 60s and 70s. There was a trend of difficult decision being avoided. Operation ROBOT, a plan to restructure industry, was cancelled by Churchill, and industrial stagnation continued. Also notable is Macmillan’s refusal...
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