The Labour Government of 1945 took upon itself a very mixed legacy from Churchill’s Coalition and Caretaker Governments. On the one hand it inherited complete victory in the Second World War, or as Churchill put it, ‘all our enemies having surrendered unconditionally or being about to do so, I was instantly dismissed by the British electorate’.1 But the effort of achieving that victory had been, for Britain, one that deprived her not only of manpower (fortunately much less so than in the First World War) but also of material possession in the form of damage to the housing stock, loss of shipping and above all exhaustion of financial resources and disruption of trading links. The Sterling Area had been almost drained of reserves by the end of 1940, when Lend-Lease began; and, to the mortification of the new Labour Government, Lend-Lease was abruptly terminated one month after the end of the war against Japan. Attlee’s administration faced the task of maintaining the occupation of a large part of Germany and Austria as well as much of the Middle East, and also of re-possessing from the Japanese a substantial portion of the Far East, at a time when members of the armed forces were clamouring for early release and a return to their homes. It was humiliating to have to ask the United States Government and Congress for a dollar loan to see Britain through the early stages of reconstruction; still more to have the request whittled down and to be forced to agree to terms which involved the premature return to convertibility of the pound.
KeywordsLabour Government North Atlantic Treaty Organisation General Council Premature Return British Electorate
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Notes and References
- 3.Jose Harris, ‘Did British Workers Want the Welfare State?’ in Jay Winter (ed.) The Working Class in Modern British History (Cambridge, 1983 ) p. 214.Google Scholar
- 7.Leslie Hannah, Engineers, Managers and Politicians (1982) pp. 131, 137.Google Scholar
- 8.Hugh Gaitskell, Socialism and Nationalisation (1956) pp. 18, 29. The essay was first written in 1953.Google Scholar
- 9.R. Kelf-Cohen, Nationalisation in Britain, 2nd edn (1961) p. 207.Google Scholar
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