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Assess the Attlee Government of 1945-51

The Attlee Government had both successes and failure in domestic, foreign
and economic issues. One of the major problems that would have to overcome was
the financial burden produced by the war, and the social and worldly effects they had.
The changes that Attlee’s Labor Government was to make would fundamentally
change Britain in nearly every way. A timely change reflective of the changing
attitudes and technologies coming to the foreground.

One of the most revolutionary aspects of Attlee’s Government, and possible of


the C20th, is the creation of the welfare state. The welfare state in, particular the NHS
fundamentally changed the way in which Britain functioned and made life far easier
for the people of Britain and kept many off the poverty line. With the NHS being a
universal service disease spread far less effectively because people were no longer
ashamed to visit their doctors. This social merging was further created with Crisps
policy of Austerity, to which all were subjected. However, Crisp’s policy of Austerity
wasn’t a popular policy in a modernizing Britain which was determined to break to
‘make do and mend’ attitude of the inter-war years. The problems caused by Austerity
were increased by the fact that Britain was exporting most of its production because
of the highly successful ‘Export Drive’. The ‘Export Drive’, however wasn’t a sad
failure of Attlee’s Government and helped War industries convert to peacetime
production and greatly benefited the poorer areas of Britain and created virtually full
employment. But the ‘Export Drive’ was a minor problem, if it can be called a
problem at all, in comparison to the self inflicted Korean War and rearmament that
was to cripple the British economy that Labor had worked so hard to build. The
people of Britain could now see no reason why they had to live in austerity, the war
was over and now Attlee had no respectable reason for why the people had to live in
such a manner, because all the evidence for Austerity’s success had be destroyed by
the Korean war.

Attlee’s government tackled the economic problems caused by World War


Two very well. Employing tactics like; withdrawing from the Palestine and India, as
well as developing nuclear weapons (which would reduce the need for a large
standing army). Attlee also began the ‘Export Drive’, a mass export of most of British
goods, which helped many areas like employment the transfer to a peacetime
economy and advancement in the stable industries and poorer areas and was a huge
success. This was funded with the money saved through Crisp’s policy of Austerity
because by reducing Britains needs the export to import ratio had change and Britain
was once again profiting. However, this still wasn’t enough to completely solve the
Post War Dept that was created and it took many years of loans for Britain to be able
to stand-alone again with aid of other countries. However, this was only the first
problem that was needed to overcome, in 1950 the Korean war broke out, and Britain
pledged itself to helping the United States, and began a re-armament program which
would cost her £4700 million pounds, 14% of the National income. This would
severely disrupt the Export Drive the Britain and rebuilt itself upon because the
rearmament would require re-allocation of resources and return to wartime industries.
Korea would have knock on effects in so many areas of Britain, it would shake
investors confidence in a newly established Britain, it would allow other nations that
were also rebuilding the countries to steal those who would buy British goods,
creating far reaching problems. Attlee’s Government would try and deal with this by
introducing a pathetic tax on NHS products, and though this might prevent people
from just taking drugs that they didn’t really need, it still failed to even make a dent in
the damage the Korean War caused. Despite this tragic failure on Attlee’s part, his
Government still managed to reorganise the British economy and show that a modern
Britain could still play a competitive roll in the world.

Attlee’s Government also experienced a change in Britain position in world


affairs, some of which it is their responsibility and other changes Attlee isn't
responsible for. Attlee’s Government would have to deal with the fact that Britain was
no long the empire it used to be and that other countries had taken the dominant roll in
world politics. An obvious example of this is Attlee’s ‘choice’ to go to war with
Korea, America had lent Britain much of the money that it would need to maintain a
stable economy and would require more generous loans in the future. Britain power
was no longer as such that it could bargain with America, and so when the US
invaded Korea, Britain had little choice but to send aid. Also the choice to re-
militarise was based on Britains roll as a ‘world policeman’, a roll which it no longer
had the capacity to perform. However, Attlee did contribute to an ‘abdication’ for
Britain’s roll in world politics, for he withdrew troops from the Palestine and India,
both of which wanted independence, a sign that Britain could no longer afford to
protect it interest of the crumbling Empire. This however may not have been a bad
move, because if rearmament if Korea, in the latter part of his Government, ruined the
climbing British economy. Then to be able to hold a strong military presents in India
and Palestine, areas of conflict, from the start of his premiership would have meant
that the economy would never have risen.

To conclude the Attlee Government revolutionised Britain in nearly every


way. The welfare state, though not perfect, created the basis for a system that was to
be copied by every major nation to date, including the most recent the United States,
and laying such foundations alone is enough to credit Attlee. However, policies like
the ‘Export Drive’ would help Britain for many year reaching beyond the good it did
during his premiership. Attlee’s biggest criticism and failure is his decision to enter
the Korean war and spend such a huge proportions the Britains income on rearming.
One could argue that this alone is enough to discredit all the positive steps Attlee,
made, or at least those taken in the economy. However, Attlee had laid the building
blocks of a stronger economy and though by the end of his premiership the economic
progress he made on the surface was non-existence, it would latter be refined and
worked upon.