Two days later, on 3 September, after a British ultimatum to Germany to cease military operations was ignored, Britain and France declared war on Germany. Under the plan, during 1948–1952 the United States governmentallocated US$13 billion (US$149 billion in 2019 dollars) for th… [41] Direct negotiations between the British and the Iranian government ceased, and over the course of 1951, the British ratcheted up the pressure on the Iranian government and explored the possibility of a coup against it. The last years of Attlee’s administration were troubled by economic stringency and inflation. His prescription for improvement included not only a widely heralded economic development plan, to be pursued with the introduction of the most modern technology, but also stern and unpopular controls on imports, the devaluation of the pound, wage restraint, and an attempt, in the event these measures proved unsuccessful, to reduce the power of the trade unions. Britain became a founding member of the United Nations during this time and of NATO in 1949. During the war, Churchill reluctantly offered increasing installments of independence amounting to dominion status in return for all-out Indian support for the conflict. He argues that there were significant advances in transport, healthcare, and higher education. Among Britons, there was a general consensus that the country's first pos… He stepped up the implementation of a "hearts and minds" campaign and approved the creation of fortified villages, a tactic that would become a recurring part of Western military strategy in South-East Asia, especially in the American role in the Vietnam War. Eventually the Wilson government became unpopular and was kept in power primarily by weakness and division in the Conservative Party. It was unable to control inflation, unable to control the unions, unable to solve the Irish problem, unable to solve the Rhodesian question, unable to secure its proposals for Welsh and Scottish devolution, unable to reach a popular modus vivendi with the Common Market, unable even to maintain itself in power until it could go to the country and the date of its own choosing. Eden drawing on his experience in the 1930s, saw Nasser as another Mussolini who had to be stopped. Labour decided not to antagonize its strong antiwar element and refused Johnson's pleas. In November 1956, after months of negotiation and attempts at mediation had failed to dissuade Nasser, Britain and France, in conjunction with Israel, invaded Egypt and occupied the Suez Canal Zone. Eden had poor staff support because the Foreign Office, Commonwealth Relations Office, and Colonial Office had been slow to realize the need for change in Britain's world role. 140,000 came to Britain, where they were no longer seen as brave wartime allies but as foreigners and a threat to British jobs. In an attempt to bolster his government, Heath called an election for 28 February 1974. In international terms, Britain was bankrupt. Their advice was rejected and in January 1958, all the Treasury ministers resigned. ", Marc Tiley, "Britain, Vietnam and the Special Relationship,", Roy Pierce, Henry Valen, and Ola Listhaug. Relief came with U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall’s announcement that the United States would undertake a massive program of financial aid to the European continent. With British youth no longer subject to military service and with postwar rationing and reconstruction ended, the stage was set for the social uprisings of the 1960s to commence. The new prime minister, Edward Heath, set three goals: to take Britain into the European Economic Community (EEC; ultimately succeeded by the European Union [EU]), to restore economic growth, and to break the power of the trade unions. Important scientific advances wwere made during World War II and British cientists were at the forefront ofmany ofthiose advances. ", Kevin Ruane, "Anglo-American relations, the cold war and Middle East defence, 1953–1955. Both Churchill and Attlee ignored his advice and kept spending heavily, in part by borrowing from India. His decision not to has been described as the biggest mistake of his premiership. The premiership of his successor, Sir Edward Heath was the bloodiest in the history of the Northern Ireland Troubles. One recent historian and Conservative party sympathiser Andrew Roberts says the independence of India was a "national humiliation" but it was necessitated by urgent financial, administrative, strategic and political needs. After WWII, Britain encouraged immigration from Commonwealth countries. Agitation in India continued. The Indian independence movement had come of age during World War I and had gained momentum with the Massacre of Amritsar of 1919. He had been forced to accept referendums on devolution in Scotland and Wales (the first went in favour but did not reach the required majority, and the second went heavily against). The postwar military cost £200 million a year, to put 1.3 million men (and a few thousand women) in uniform, keep operational combat fleets Stationed in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and the Indian Ocean as well as Hong Kong, fund bases across the globe, as well as 120 full RAF squadrons. It regularized the de facto nationalization of public assistance, the old Poor Law, in the National Assistance Act of 1946, and in its most controversial move it established the gigantic framework of the National Health Service, which provided free comprehensive medical care for every citizen, rich or poor. When Britain emerged victorious from the Second World War, the Labour Party under Clement Attlee came to power and created a comprehensive welfare state, with the establishment of the National Health Service giving free healthcare to all British citizens, and other reforms to benefits. was a popular slogan attacking the Conservative record 1951–1964. The Bank of England, railways, heavy industry, and coal mining were all nationalised. What was it like for Poles who settled in Britain after the war? His understanding of economics was primitive, and he gave his chancellor Reginald Maudling free rein to handle financial affairs. [69], This article is about British political history from 1945 to 1979. However, by the autumn of 1978 the economy was showing signs of recovery – although unemployment now stood at 1,500,000, economic growth was strong and inflation had fallen below 10%. People could not understand how a “loving God” could allow the slaughter of 19,000 British soldiers in just one day as the Battle of the Somme began. Britain's application to join Europe had already been vetoed by de Gaulle, the Cuban missile crisis had been resolved, and Berlin was again on the back burner. Edward Heath giving a victory wave after receiving his seal of office from the queen. The pugnacious temper of the minister of health, Aneurin Bevan, and the insistence of radical elements in the Labour Party upon the nationalization of all hospitals provoked the only serious debate accompanying the enactment of this immense legislative program, most of which went into force within two years of Labour’s accession to office. In 1946, towards the end of his life, we sent the great economist - Lord Keynes to Washington to help argue for an £8bn loan. India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon gained independence. In response, in 1947, U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall devised the "European Recovery Program", which became known as the Marshall Plan. [44][45], In April 1955, Churchill finally retired, and Sir Anthony Eden succeeded him as Prime Minister. Labour’s record in its first 18 months of office was distinguished. [13] The new Labour government knew the expenses of British involvement across the globe were financially crippling. However, neither Wilson nor James Callaghan, who succeeded him on April 5, 1976, was able to come to terms with the labour unions, which were as willing to embarrass a Labour government as a Conservative one. His Foreign Minister Rab Butler was not especially energetic. Robert Crowcroft and Kevin Theakston. After 1918 Britain gained territory from Germany in Africa making British rule continuous from Cape Town to the Suez Ca… Before the war, Britain maintained colonies all over the world, which provided valuable raw materials, manpower and strategic bases. The only major loss was England's oldest colony Ireland, next door, who had been ruled by England since the 1200s when King Henry 2nd was asked by an Irish war lord to come and make peace between the warring local chiefs. U.S. President Harry S. Truman was reluctant to agree, placing a much higher priority on the Korean War. [38] However, a year later Labour lost the general election of 1951 despite polling more votes than in the 1945 election, and indeed more votes than the Conservative Party.[39][40]. E. Bruce Geelhoed, Anthony O. Edmonds (2003): Graham Goodlad, "Thirteen Wasted Years: "Do the Conservative governments of 1951–64 deserve this label", Pete Dorey, "‘Well, Harold Insists on Having It!’—The Political Struggle to Establish The Open University, 1965–67. These offers were rejected by both the Muslim minority and the Hindu majority. The Labour Party introduced charges for NHS dental services and glasses in 1951. It had been owned and controlled by Britain since 1875 and was seen as essential to national defence and access to the Far East. He gambled that a fifth year would further improve the economy and allow him to be re-elected in 1979, and so attempted to hold pay rises to 5% or less. This compares with just 36.8 per cent today. However the Suez Crisis of 1956 demonstrated Britain was no longer a superpower. In terms of the Empire, Macmillan continued decolonisation, his Wind of Change speech in February 1960 indicating his policy. The International Court of Justice was called in to settle the dispute, but a 50/50 profit-sharing arrangement, with recognition of nationalisation, was rejected by Mossadegh. Burma (now Myanmar) and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) received independence by early 1948. Finally, in 1968, Wilson was confronted with an outbreak of civil rights agitation in Northern Ireland that quickly degenerated into armed violence. In the aftermath of these unsuccessful talks, the Heath government pushed for a peaceful settlement with the democratic political parties. By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. [62] It was a manifesto pledge in the general election of February 1974 for a Labour government to re-negotiate better terms for Britain in the EEC, and then hold a referendum on whether Britain should stay in the EEC on the new terms. At the end of WWII, Great Britain found itself at a major crossroads. "Thirteen Wasted Years!" One of Macmillan's more noteworthy actions was the end of conscription. On 26 July 1956 Gamal Abdel Nasser, President of Egypt, nationalised the Suez Canal company, in violation of the international agreement he had signed with the UK in 1954. [63] But Wilson was not able to end the economic crisis. Despite losing by more than 200,000 votes to the Conservatives, Labour and Wilson returned as a minority government and promptly made peace by granting the miners’ demands. Callaghan's support for and from the union movement should not be mistaken for a left wing position. However, as no prime minister had led from the House of Lords since the Marquess of Salisbury in 1902, Home chose to become a member of parliament so he could enter the House of Commons. The success in India encouraged and embolden the development programs of ambitious young British colonial officials in Africa and the rest of Asia. The Conservatives made austerity a major issue in the general election of 1950. A major reason that Churchill was in the wilderness during the 1930s was his refusal to support the Conservative position in favor of independence for India. [2][3] The Conservatives returned to power in 1951, accepting most of Labour's postwar reforms, but introduced prescription charges to the NHS in 1952 and denationalized steel in 1953. However, like the notion of national unity during World War II, this interpretation can also be seen largely as a myth produced by politicians and the press at the time and perpetuated since. There were problems with transport, factories ran out of fuel and at home people had no electricity to cook with. The government maintained most of the wartime controls over the economy, including control over the allocation of materials and manpower, and unemployment rarely rose above 500,000, or 3% of the total workforce. Imports were cut to the bone. The aid permitted Britain to provide consumption at tolerable levels despite the austerity. In addition, road transport, docks and harbours, and the production of electrical power were nationalized. Ghana, Malaya, Nigeria and Kenya were granted independence during this period. [35] Starting in 1948, the United States provided grants of $3.3 billion (about US$33 billion in 2017). "The Development of Environmental Politics in Inter-War and Post-War Britain" (PhD Dissertation, Queen Mary University of London, 2016), This page was last edited on 5 December 2020, at 16:33. National Service ended gradually from 1957; in November 1960 the last men entered service. [9] In the end historians give Bevan the major credit for the success. The act pleased no one, neither the Indians, the Labour Party, which considered it a weak compromise, nor a substantial section of the Conservative Party headed by Churchill, which thought it went too far. Post-war Britain, as many contemporary observers noted, did not seem like a country that had just experienced a great military triumph. Britain's application to join the Common Market was vetoed by French President Charles de Gaulle on 29 January 1963, in due to his fear that 'the end would be a colossal Atlantic Community dependent on America', and personal anger at the Anglo-American nuclear deal.[53]. Home's few domestic policies were not well received, but he did abolish retail price maintenance, which allowed consumers to find more bargains on sale. Britain was still a major world producer of ships and the leading European producer of coal, steel, cars and textiles. Wilson announced his surprise resignation on 16 March 1976 and unofficially endorsed his Foreign Secretary James Callaghan as his successor. Plans were drafted by Jennie Lee, the Minister for the Arts; she had Wilson's full support. He was prime minister at the time of Bloody Sunday in 1972 when 14 unarmed men were killed by British soldiers during a banned civil rights march in Derry. Various other pieces of legislation provided for child benefit and support for people with no other source of income. [22] Whereas Churchill in 1940–45 had tightened the hold on India and imprisoned the Congress leadership, Labour had looked forward to making it a fully independent dominion like Canada or Australia. With nothing to export, Britain had no way to pay for imports or even for food. Britain incurred 715,000 military deaths (with more than twice that number wounded), the destruction of 3.6% of its human capital, 10% of its domestic and 24% of its overseas assets, and spent well over 25% of its GDP on the war effort between 1915 and 1918 (Broadberry and Harrison, 2005). After the Second World War, the landslide 1945 election returned the Labour Party to power and Clement Attlee became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Winston Churchill warned that when the Second World War was over Britain would be left bankrupt. Thus, at Britain’s initiative, the Truman Doctrine came into existence. Top American diplomats such as Dean Acheson trusted Bevin and worked through him. She celebrated her diamond jubilee, marking 60 years since her ascension to the throne, in 2012. Richards, David, Martin Smith, and Colin Hay, eds. He enjoyed dealing with foreign policy, but there were no major crises or issues to resolve. The remainder went mostly for machinery and oil. American loans and Marshall Plan grants kept the economy afloat. A cornerstone in how the public and its elite perceived the future of the British Isles as a country and political regime. The fall of James Callahan in the summer of 1979 meant, according to most commentators across the political spectrum, the end of an ancien régime, a system of corporatism, Keynesian spending programmes, subsidized welfare, and trade union power.[68]. Moreover, the economy was in disarray. The government had a target to build 400,000 new houses a year to replace those which had been destroyed in the war, but shortages of materials and manpower meant that less than half this number were built. Bread, never rationed during the war, had to be controlled. Following the technical failures of a British independent nuclear deterrent with the Blue Streak and the Blue Steel projects, Macmillan negotiated the supply of American Polaris missiles under the Nassau agreement in December 1962. In 1974, the Sunningdale Agreement was produced but fiercely repudiated by many Unionists and the Ulster Unionist Party ceased to support the Conservatives at Westminster. The British decided to get out in 1948 so as not to further alienate their very large clientele in the Arab nations.[30][31]. Although it was cut short in December 1956, when UN emergency units supplanted British (and French) troops, the Suez intervention divided British politics as few foreign issues have done since. The result was inconclusive: the Conservative Party received a plurality of votes cast, but the Labour Party gained a plurality of seats due to the Ulster Unionist MPs refusing to support the Conservatives. Callaghan continued Wilson's policy of a balanced Cabinet and relied heavily on Michael Foot. John Carrier and Ian Kendall find that the mission for Minister of Health Aneurin Bevan was resolving "The potential conflict between the aim of providing a universalist, comprehensive health service of a good standard and that of containing health costs to a reasonable level, and how to finance the system in such a way that certainty and sufficiency of funds could be guaranteed. The most controversial issue was nationalisation of steel, which was profitable unlike the others. [51] The amiable relationship continued with President John F. Kennedy after 1960. [65] Most opinion polls were showing Labour ahead and he was expected to call an election before the end of the year. [5], A comprehensive welfare state was created with the National Insurance Act 1946, in which people in work paid a flat rate of national insurance. In 2003, he gave evidence to the Saville Inquiry and claimed that he never promoted or agreed to the use of unlawful lethal force in Northern Ireland. Britain had to develop its own nuclear arsenal, with the first test in 1952. In the 1964 general election, the Labour Party was returned to power under Harold Wilson. [19] Meanwhile, the small Labour minority in Parliament was sympathetic to the Congress movement led by Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharial Nehru. The long Conservative tenure came to an end on October 16, 1964, with the appointment of a Labour administration headed by Harold Wilson, who had been Labour leader only a little more than a year and a half—since the death of the widely admired Hugh Gaitskell. His domestic priorities followed the post-war consensus with minor adjustments. [12] The United States provided a large 50-year loan in 1946, and the sudden grant of independence to India and Pakistan in 1947 sharply cut expenses. The pound was sharply devalued in 1949, and a general election on February 23, 1950, reduced Labour’s majority over the Conservative and Liberal parties to only five seats. This scale of debt, was the over-riding feature of our post war economy which hung like a shadow over the UK economy and UK politics. Foot was made Leader of the House of Commons and given the task of steering through the government's legislative programme. He resigned on 18 October 1963 after he had been admitted to hospital for prostate trouble. The remainder settled in the West, mainly in USA and Canada. ), Michael Asteris, "British Overseas Military Commitments 1945–47: Making Painful Choices. Britain since 1945. 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