When in the manufacturing of consumer goods. The coal

When Labour took power in 1945, Britain was in dire need of
reform. Six years of raging war with the axis powers had left Britain in
industrial, social and economic despair. 
Major cities had been destroyed during the Blitz, leaving infrastructure
in rapid need of repair. This also led to a huge housing crisis as hundreds of
thousands of homes had been destroyed during the war. Industry had been hit
hard too; many factories had their manufacturing lines altered to accommodate
the war effort, leading to a major decline in the manufacturing of consumer
goods. The coal industry was also in a bad state, coal mined within the UK
prior to the war was being exported, helping improve the British economy, but
during the war effort it was diverted to areas of the military. This meant that
Britain had lost major export markets, by 1944 exports had fallen to below 40%,
hurting the economy severely. Furthermore, social problems erupted within
Britain during the Second World War, a lack of housing, an unemployment crisis
and a general feeling of the need to reform the nation all led to Attlee’s
victory in 1945.

Bill Coxall stated that Labour’s victory in 1945 was based on a
national desire for reform within Britain. (Coxall
and Robins, 1998) He was right; there was a huge yearning for reform in
Britain at this time. The Beveridge report, written during the war, had become
a famous piece of literature across the nation. It gained popularity rapidly,
and swept the nation with ideas of social reform, in an attempt to tackle the
‘Five Giants’, squalor, ignorance, want, idleness, and disease. The report laid
out ideas of social insurance, offering protection and support to those at the
bottom of society. The ideas in the report were centrepiece to Attlee’s promise
to Britain, and were put into motion during his premiership. During the first
years of Attlee’s government we saw vast reform and success. From 1945 to 1947
there was an introduction of Welfare state, for example, the National Insurance
Act, The Provision of Housing, and the introduction of the NHS in 1948. In an
article written by Derek Brown, he writes that the introduction of the NHS was
Labour’s biggest achievements, and during a difficult time it was a beacon of
hope within Britain (Brown, 2001). As well as setting in
motion the foundations of the welfare state, Attlee also began to nationalise
some key industries within Britain. As a result of the war, some industries
were lacking in efficiency, therefore the government took it upon itself to
nationalise, the coal industry, the railways, the Bank of England and the Iron
and Steel industries.  Mark Edward Tookey
at the University of Durham states in his thesis that these industries were
considered fundamental to Britain’s economic structure, and therefore, Attlee
felt it was best managed under public ownership. (Tookey, 2000) For the most part, the nationalisation of key
British industry was popular. The coalmines were in dire condition, and highly
unsafe. The National Coal Board was seen as much more humanitarian. For the
most part Attlee’s domestic policy was a success, he’d effectively tackled the
five giants, creating the welfare state and had nationalised key industry,
helping the economy.

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Though
not all his domestic policy was a success, rationing carried on throughout his
tenure, even after promising to put an end to it.  This was unpopular amongst the public and lost
labour a lot of support.  Tomlinson
states that the continuation of rationing and austerity measures allowed the
conservatives to launch a propaganda campaign to ‘set the people free’ (Tomlinson, 2013). Furthermore, the
severe winter of 1947 was also seen as a failure. There was a huge shortage in
coal, meaning industrial productivity fell drastically. In an article written
by Phil Carradice, he states that ‘Coal
was already in short supply, the mining industry not having recovered from the
privations of the war years, and now trains and Lorries struggled to get what
limited stocks that were available through to power stations.’ (Carradice,
2010).  Many saw labours handling of
the winter crisis as incompetent, and it lost them support from across Britain.

Attlee,
and the Chancellor Stafford Cripps, faced another challenge when he came into
power, the economy and industry. As Pritt stated, Labour faced many challenges
at the end of the war, such as getting exports going again, getting foreign
payments back into balance and arranging the settlements of war debts. (Pritt, 1964) The war had ravaged
British industry. They had lost export markets in Europe, as all coal had been
diverted for the war effort, and the majority of consumer goods manufacturers
had their production line altered to produce equipment for the military. Attlee
needed to rebalance the budget and get exports up by 75% to 1939 levels.  To achieve this, Attlee decided to enforce
austerity measures to decrease the deficit, and to implement a policy of full
employment in Britain. By 1950, Attlee had managed to rebalance the budget, and
it is seen as his biggest success during his premiership. He maintained full
employment, with unemployment averaging 310,000 by 1951, and he also managed to
massively increase export markets from around £266m at the start of his
leadership to £2.2bn in 1950.

Though
Attlee’s handling of the economy is mostly seen as a success, there were some
failures during his administration. Attlee had committed a lot of spending on
the implementation of the welfare state, creating the National Health Service,
and the construction of hundreds of thousands of council houses. This meant
that Britain had to turn to it’s allies, the USA, for money.  Shortly after the war, Attlee sent John
Maynard Keynes to negotiate a loan. Originally, he wanted to secure a $1.5b,
interest fee loan, but after long negotiations, Keynes agreed a deal with the
USA for a loan of $3.75bn, repayable over 50 years with 2 percent interest (Pritt, 1964). This would be spent on
the reconstruction of Britain, and to help fulfil Attlee’s goal of full
employment. Though by 1947, this loan had been spent. So in 1947, Britain again
had to turn to America for funds. We were given a $3.2bn loan; this again would
be spent on helping the economy grow, by using Keynesian economics to invest in
the economy. Though it is believed that this loan was spent more frivolously
than other nations who had received it, and it is widely believed that Britain
had spent the loan incorrectly in terms of getting the economy growing.

Foreign
policy was another area in which Labour found success. The formation of NATO
was seen as a success to western European sovereignty from Soviet Communism. David
Haglund writes that NATO was created as a counterweight to Soviet aggression in
Europe (Haglund, 1998). Ernie Bevin
took an audacious step, in openly supporting the USA in terms of counteracting
Soviet hostility. This helped forge the Atlantic alliance, and strengthened the
special relationship between the UK. Furthermore, the construction of the A
bomb can be seen as a success, as it allowed Britain to remain a substantial
nation in the international order, and to keep up with its allies and the
Soviet Union military.

After
the war,   Britain was under pressure from America to
dismantle its empire (Coxall and Robins,
1998). Therefore, Britain began to grant independence to its former
colonies and transform them into democratic states. In some instances, this is
often seen as a failure. For example, the partitioning of India is still seen
as a failure to this day. Mainly, as Cyril Radcliffe’s border created a great
ethno-religious division with the creation of Pakistan.  Furthermore, the abandonment of the British
Palestine mandate, which led to the creation of the State of Israel, created
similar tensions between Jewish Israelis and Palestinian Arabs, which still
affect the region today. The Korean War could also be seen as a failure, as the
British invested heavily in the Korean War effort, which diverted crucial
funding from domestic policy, leading to the resignations of Nye Bevan and Hugh
Gaitskell.

In
conclusion, the Attlee government can be seen as a success. In the Labour
Manifesto, they made bold promises to put the Beveridge report into action and
to create a social welfare system, built on the ideas of social insurance. They
put their promises into actions and created a strong welfare state and health
service, which are still considered some of the best around the world to this
day. To implement this policy directly after a devastating war demonstrates how
successful the Labour party was in being able to do this.  Though austerity measures were enforce, and
this can be argued as to why the Conservatives took back power in 1950, it can
be seen as necessary in order to lay the foundations of the welfare state. Furthermore,
economically Labour revamped British industry through nationalisation, and monetary
policy which balanced the budget and generated full employment. This allowed
Britain to recapture its export market, creating stable economic growth. With
the creation of NATO, and the suppression of communist Russia, Attlee and
Bevin’s foreign policy is still widely considered a success, even with problems
regarding decolonisation. 

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