Anda di halaman 1dari 3

Huw Thomas 13DT

The Conservatives inability to economically modernise Britain was the main reason why Labour won the 1964 election. Assess the validity of this statement (45)
The 1964 election changed the British political landscape forever as a thirteen-year Conservative dominance crumbled at the hands of Harold Wilson and his youthful Labour Party. Historians, such as Rowe, postulate that there are a plethora of reasons to why Labour won the 1964 election, most prominently because of the Conservatives inability to economically modernise Britain. Contrastingly, other historians such as Lynch uphold the opinion that there are other factors responsible for Labours victory, including Labours prominence in areas of politics where the Conservatives lacked flair and creativity, as well as the works of satirical TV shows, such as, That was the Week That Was, that mocked the current policies of the Conservative government. Historians agree that a multitude of these factors are responsible for the downfall of the Conservative Party, and these will be further explained and analysed in the latter of this essay. Initially, historians such as Rowe firmly believe that the Conservatives inability to economically modernise Britain and provide British industries with the reforms to produce an atmosphere of economic prosperity. Indeed, a major reason for Labours victory was because Harold Wilson advocated a campaign for economic modernisation of Britain so the nation did not fall behind the excelling economies of European rivals such as West Germany. Economists raise the significant point that economic modernisation looks at the internal dynamics of a nation while referring to social and cultural structures and the adaptation of new technologies. The Conservatives failed in every social and economic aspect of this theory, as shown in 1963, as unemployment reached approximately 800,000 making a mockery of Macmillans, never had it so good speech. The inability of the Conservative Party to economically modernise Britain led not only to their downfall in the 1964 election, but also to the collapse of Britains economy during this era. Economists point out that as a result of Conservative mismanagement of the economic sectors, Britain faced financial hardships, including a huge balance of payments deficit, which undeniably caused higher levels of inflation, causing the cost of living for ordinary British people to rise. Moreover, the economic boom of the late 1950s and the, Age of Affluence, had reached its end, with great saturation in the markets for consumer goods. Inevitably, poor governance of the economy proved to be the critical factor in the downfall of the Conservative Party at the 1964 election. However, Lynch disagrees and asserts that the Conservative Party did attempt to revitalise the economy by applying for membership to the EEC. To the disenchantment of the British electorate, Britains application was rejected by Frances president, Charles de Gaulle on the basis that he saw British membership as a Trojan horse for US influence. Ultimately, it proved to the electorate that

Huw Thomas 13DT Conservative Foreign Policy was a humiliating failure as Britains inability to join the EEC showed how Britain had lost its stance as a glorifying world power. In summation, economic failures contributed massively to Labours victory in 1964 as the Conservative Party failed to capture the zeitgeist of the time as poor Economic policies led to a decline in living standards and an increase in the cost of living. Secondly, other historians, including Rowe uphold the opinion that the Conservatives inability to economically modernise Britain was not the sole reason for Labours victory in 1964, and indeed, the considerable Labour strengths in areas where the Conservatives lacked, contributed greatly to Labours cause. One such reason for Labour dominance at the 1964 election was the fact that when Gaitskell died, the splits in the Labour Party came to an end, and as such, differences were resolved and the Party was reunited under the leadership of Harold Wilson. Labour leader Wilson oozed political flair, alongside being a brilliant political orator, established a viable alternative to Conservative rule. On the other hand, the Conservatives struggled with leadership issues, as there was a sense of a power vacuum following Macmillans resignation and the doubts over choosing his successor. In addition, political historians agree that a major reason for Labour dominance at the polls of 1964 was because the majority of the electorate saw the election process of Conservative leader, Douglas-Home, as being old and antiquated. As a clear result of this, the Conservatives failed to capture the zeitgeist of the time, but more importantly, seemed, out of touch, with the public and undermined the Tories attempt to project a modern image. Contrastingly, Marr concludes that Harold Wilson was more charismatic, fresher and younger than his Conservative Party counterpart. Additionally, he was also a superb parliamentarian and orator and pulled away from Douglas Home in the opinion polls before the 1964. In summation, Labours leader Wilson built a fundamental voting platform, as such; his Party could take advantage of, as they pushed through exciting and original electoral promises such as plans for complete economic modernisation. Alternatively, political historians highlight that Labour won the 1964 because throughout the 1964 election process, there was a Liberal Revival, which nearly doubled their share of the vote from 5.9% in 1959 to 11.2% in 1964. This softened the Conservative vote and was a major reason for their defeat in the 1964 election. Indeed, another significant reason for Labours victory in the 1964 election was because Labour skilfully presented a slick and effective election campaign, in which they presented themselves as better fitted to lead the country into this new technological age. Political historians agree that this was greatly assisted by Wilsons tight friendship with the 1960s iconic band, The Beatles. Moreover, Lynch puts forward the argument that Labour was able to capture the zeitgeist of the time as they were portrayed in the eyes of the electorate as more youthful and in tune with the progressive Britain that people in the, Swinging Sixties, desired. Political commentator Marr speculates that Labour tapped directly into the mood of the day by consistently referring to the, white heat of the technological revolution, in many of their electoral speeches and propaganda.

Huw Thomas 13DT On the other hand, the Conservatives lost the support of the public and as such, there was a sudden political sway in power. Indeed, they polled 49.4% of the vote in 1959 but only 43.6% in 1964, a telling contribution to their defeat. Although some political analysts concur that the Liberal Revival did contribute somewhat to this landslide destruction in opinion polls, Marr concludes that the exemplifying reason for the Conservative downfall was weariness and a lack of spirit after thirteen unbroken years in government. Indeed, the Conservatives were viewed as, out of touch, by the electorate and were plagued with various sex scandals, involving several key politicians. One such scandal was the Vassal Affair, where a civil worker within the Conservative Party was sought out to have been a Soviet spy. This greatly tarnished Macmillans ability as leader as he failed to spot a perpetrator at the heart of the Conservative establishment. Marr also brings to our attention the Philby Case, but more notorious was the Profumo Affair, in such a high ranking individual within the Conservative Party was caught to liaising in sexual relations with a lady with ties to the Soviet Embassy. In the heat of a Cold War environment, this was another grave security risk and provided satirical TV and radio shows with comical content for weeks as details of the case poured out of national newspapers. Moreover, the Argyll Case tarnished the reputation of the Conservative Party once and for all as it involved the spouse of a decorated political member, involving herself in erotic activities with more than fifty men. As such, these political scandals damaged the reputation of the Conservative Party indefinitely, with the private lives of highly valued individuals strewn across tabloid headlines, turned voters away from them and towards the Labour cause. Moreover, political commentators such as Marr highlight another factor that led to the Conservative downfall as being the actions of satirical TV and radio shows, that consistently mocked the Conservative government in the run-up to the 1964 election. Throughout this era, the media grasped the attention of millions of Britains, and therefore, negative and almost, comical reports surrounding the Conservative Party tarnished the Partys reputation and turned many voters away from them. Lastly, the imbalance of the First Past the Post electoral system benefited the Labour Party as the general elect