“It was sheer good fortune that the Conservative Party were returned to office in May 1955. ” Discuss. In the May 1955 General Election, the Conservatives won 344 seats, winning with an overall majority of 58; with Labour winning 277 and 3. 9% of votes were for Liberal and Others. It can be argued that the Conservatives were returned to office in 1955 due sheer good fortune. However, we must explore the other options as to why the Tory party won, particularly how the Conservative party looked against the opposition. In 1951, the economy was in turmoil.
There was a balance of payments crisis which leads to a ? 700 million deficit. Also, countries started to buy imports from other countries outside of the UK, so Britain’s export market was damaged. However, by 1952, the government had recovered, and by 1954, Great Britain was flourishing; rationing was abolished, unemployment was reduced and it was the end of austerity and the start of the era of affluence. This is an example of good fortune because coincidently, Britain’s economy had fully recovered not long before the election.
Also, due to the condition of the opposition, the Conservatives seemed like a stable government. There was a right-left split in Labour, between Gaitskell and Bevan. This showed that the Labour party was unorganised and could never lead the country properly as they wouldn’t be able to agree on important decisions. This is another example of how the Conservatives won through good fortune, as British citizens wanted consistency and efficiency, which was best displayed by the Tories. One month before the election, Churchill resigned. He was replaced by Mr.
Eden, a popular replacement. He was the Foreign Secretary and a statesman; this had earned him a good reputation. This is an example of good fortune because the public liked Eden, and for him to become Prime Minister a month before the election due to Churchill’s resignation was good for Conservative popularity. Other factors as to why the Conservatives were returned to office include the events that took place during the time when Churchill was Prime Minister. During Churchill’s time as Prime Minister, the Korean War ended – in 1953 to be exact.
The public were happy about this because Britain couldn’t afford to be paying for a war. Therefore, this would leave Britons in the Conservatives favour, which would result in them being voted in again. Also, between 1951 and 1954, Arthur Macmillan, the Minister of Housing, was able to fulfil the ‘300,000’ houses a year pledge in 1953, a year early. This showed that the party was organised and were serious about their policies, which would have helped their popularity in the election because people would know that the Tory party were committed and would mean what they promised.
The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953 was also significant because it lifted the mood of the electorate and brought about a feeling of optimism. This would have raised Conservative support because the Coronation was during the time of a Conservative government. It can be argued that the reason the Conservatives were voted in again was that they worked hard on their campaign to attract the voters that were undecided on which party to vote for.
They focused on their electoral appeal, and they were united and working together, where as Labour was not due to the split between the Bevians and the Gaitskillites. The Conservatives’ policies were also favourable. Butler’s 1955 Budget was appealing because it cut taxes considerably. The cuts included a 6d reduction in income tax plus higher personal allowances. Voters liked this because it means they do not have to pay as much money back to the government, and as humans we like to keep our money.
Overall, when we take all the factors into consideration, the most important reason for the Conservatives returning to office in 1955 is that when compared to the Labour party, which was disunited due to the split between the right and the left wing members, the Conservatives seemed to be a reliable and consistent party. Their policies were good and the Housing pledge was proof that they are trustworthy. Above all, they were a well organised party that were able to focus on appealing to the electorate while Labour was held back by the state of the party.