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The success of the first two labour governments was outweighed by the failures

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Do you agree with the view that, in the years 1945-51, the achievements of the Labour government far outweighed its failures? Explain your answer, using Sources 4, 5 and 6 and your own knowledge. (40 marks) The Labour government in 1945-1951 achieved a high degree of activity and success, despite working within ‘ the aftermath of war’ which inevitably ‘ brings enormous difficulties’. The Labour government devoted their power to reconstructing a better nation, one that would be a ‘ better place in which to be born, to grow up, and to live and even die’. On the other hand it is possible to criticise Labour due to their ‘ irresponsible’ spending. In source 4 Hennessy states that Britain is a ‘ better place in which to be born’ as the emergence of the NHS (1948) was one of the major achievements of Atlee’s Labour government.

This is because the introduction of the National Health Service was created as part of a social welfare policy which aimed to provide universal and free benefits to all those in need. This marked a stepping stone to solving the nation’s major social problems. Peter further comments that’s Britain is a better place to ‘ grow up’, this is due to housing as Labour identified the housing shortage that existed as much housing had been destroyed or damaged during the German bombing campaign. 1 million houses were built as a way of attacking one of Beveridge’s 5 giants; Beveridge considered poor housing to be one of the major factors in explaining poverty and lack of hope and chance in Britain. ‘ to work’ is due to the four acts which includes industrial injuries in jobs such as mining which provides cover for accidents occurring within the workplace.

This is significant for jobs such as mining. ‘ to live’ is due to the benefits which emerged such as Family Allowance which provides a weekly payment of five shillings for every child after the first and did not require a means test. In source 5 Andrew Maar comments on the way in which Britain ‘ encouraged export at all costs’ this is through the export drive which evidently strengthened the economy by 50%. Source 4 states that Britain ‘ experienced a progressive phase’ which embodies the age of austerity which the Marshall plan (1948) began, where Britain received $200 million US Dollars, this marks one of the greatest achievement of Bevin as he convinced US of the necessity of such a plan for shoring up Europe against the threat of communism in USSR. It spurred significant economic recovery. Stafford Cripps was to adopt a policy of austerity which the basic aim was to use rationing and tight economic controls to prevent ‘ inflation’. Such measures, it was hoped would keep employment high and allow the government to continue its welfare programme. Source 4 uses the word ‘ kinder’ which epitomises the 1948 Olympics which brought happiness and togetherness into the society, this was crucial due to the war which they had experienced prior to this.

The event came to be known as the Austerity Games because of the economic climate and post-war rationing. This highlights the impact in which this had upon the country as the team spirit nature of this sporting event transmitted to the people enabling a more friendly atmosphere of which encapsulates the idea of a social revolution had occurred. Attlee’s government inherited crushing financial difficulties in 1945. Source 6 remains impartial due to the fact that this political document is written by the opposition party, therefore the Conservatives comment that the Labour government encountered various economic failures which caused ‘ devaluation’ due to ‘ wild expenditure’. For example between 1945-6 Britain spent £750 million more abroad than it received as exports of manufactures had dropped by 60 per cent in wartime. To meet this crisis Hugh Dalton negotiated a loan of $60000 million from the USA and Canada. The government were in hope that, in accordance with Keynesian theory the loan would provide the basis of an industrial recovery. Such recovery as did occur was never enough to meet expectations, as the US dollar was very strong at the end of the war. Britain had to ‘ suffer’ from the dollar gap which drained Britain of a substantial part of the loan which makes it harder to meet repayments.

The winter crisis cited as a factor in the devaluation of the pound from $4. 03 to $2. 80 in 1949. The fuel crisis lead to greater Wage demands which brought ‘ finances.. into a grave disorder’ as coal supplies were already low following the Second World War as it struggled to get through to power stations and many stations were forced to shut down for lack of fuel. 4 million workers were off work as a result of this weather condition and Britain was so poorly prepared for dealing with this situation. The attempts to ‘ forced modernisation’ through nationalisation as steel is profitable therefore opponents state that justice had been jeopardised as the steel industry was not public utility but private owned. This raised the question of what was a fair settlement, but more significantly opened up the larger issue of whether the state had the right to overrule the declared objections of the shareholders or owners. To conclude, the achievements outweigh the failures as Britain experienced pivotal actions such as the introduction of NHS and the four acts which guarantee the people of Britain with welfare and social insurance which deals directly with cases on financial hardship and poverty which is a key focal point to eliminating social inequality.

The Labour government 1945-51 paved way for greater equality as this marked a stepping stone for future governments which is evident as many reforms are still significant today. Britain certainly changed drastically ‘ compared to that of 1931’. However, they still suffered numerous economic failures which is crucial when assessing the achievements of a country as the economy is what rules the country and is how other countries judge their successes. The failures are miniature and as the government came into power during a post war period; this has an impact on the extent to which they can reconstruct the country heavily.

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