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Attlee’s Labour Governments,
a. How well did Labour handle the economy? Break down this huge question into smaller, more manageable ones. Put on one side of the equation the positive advantages Labour enjoyed (including pent-up post-war demand and US aid) and, on the other, negative factors (like the legacy of the war, the severe winter of early-1947 and the outbreak of the Korean war). Was the government out of its depth during the convertibility crisis of 1947? Should devaluation in 1949 be looked upon as a failure or a constructive policy? Do not forget overall economic progress, in terms of industrial production.
b. What was the impact of Labour’s welfare reforms? How did the new system differ from that previously in place and from the Beveridge proposals? Do not forget that ‘welfare’ involves not just medical care and social insurance but also housing and education.
c. What judgements will you form on the nationalisation programme? It is not enough just to know the dates of the acts of nationalisation and the sums paid in compensation to the previous owners. You also need details of how well or badly the public utilities performed - and about the (public corporation) form which nationalisation took.
d. Draw up reasons why the elections of 1945, 1950 and 1951 were lost and won. Take great care to make the factors fit the results. It is all too easy to pile on the reasons why Labour won in 1945 and then, for 1951, to exaggerate the reasons why the Conservatives were victorious, forgetting that Labour got the most votes when they went out of office and that in no election did they receive half the votes cast.
e. How successful were Labour’s external policies? Can the withdrawal from India be considered successful, especially in view of the communal rioting? Was Bevin right to throw in his lot with the USA in the Cold War?
f. How able was Attlee as cabinet maker and chairman? Could anyone else have kept the 'big personalities' in his cabinet together for so long? Compare him with other premiers.
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