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Rationing, Austerity and the Conservative Party Recovery after 1945

Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska
The Historical Journal
Vol. 37, No. 1 (Mar., 1994), pp. 173-197
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2640057
Page Count: 25
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Rationing, Austerity and the Conservative Party Recovery after 1945
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Abstract

The general election of 1945 is described as `the Waterloo of the Conservative party'. Yet, in 1951 the Conservatives returned to power and were to remain in office for thirteen years. The purpose of this article is to examine this transformation in electoral fortunes. Labour's defeat in 1951 is usually explained in terms of government fatigue, redistribution, and Liberal disintegration. It is argued here that the Conservative party was not just a passive beneficiary of these developments. Rather, the 1951 result was the outcome of a sustained effort since 1946 to regain the initiative and political power. The Conservatives were actively engaged in forging an anti-socialist coalition focused on disaffection with austerity, rationing and controls on which the party's recovery after 1945 is based. The discussion is divided into four sections. The first outlines the extent of shortages, establishes the significance of this issue in political debate, and identifies the social groups most affected. Part two traces the swing to the right from 1947 onwards and the third section explores Conservative propaganda in opposition to rationing, austerity and controls. The final part examines the party's assessment of the electoral task, its monitoring of public opinion, and the range of techniques employed to rally support.

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