How far do these sources support the view that Labour’s landslide election victory of 1945 “could have been predicted long in advance”?
The massive landslide victory of the Labour Government may have been seen as a great shock to many people in Britain because the hugely popular Prime Minister, Churchill, had just successfully led Britain through the War. However when we consider the public mood at the time of the election, just after the war had ended we can understand why they might favour a Labour Government.
Source 2 states that “the voters wanted an end to wartime austerity” as they had endured WW2 for 6 years, a war that had a much greater affect on civilian life than the previous world war. They no longer felt the need to have a Prime Minister whose main objective was to win battles. Churchill wanted to continue fighting until Japan was defeated, as mentioned in source 2, however the Labour government could see that the British public were weary with the war. Therefore I believe that source 2 suggests that the victory could have been predicted sooner because Labour knew what the public wanted whereas Churchill was still trying to convince the British to fight the Japanese.
Furthermore the public were not just tired with the war, but they felt as if they needed some form of reward. This meant that when the Beveridge Report was announced in 1942, introducing a welfare system, votes for labour increased and they secured a 10 percent lead in 1943 as described in source 1. This supports the statistics shown in source 3 which states that 100,000 copies of the reports were sold. People wanted to benefit from a National Health Service, housing, employment and a nationalisation of industry and, according to source 2 they didn’t trust Churchill “to deliver the brave new world of Beveridge”. The fact that Churchill did not grasp the opportunity to use the Beveridge Reports was a big mistake and I believe that it was an early indicator that the Conservatives were going to fall out of favour.
Not only did Churchill not use the Beveridge Reports, but he considered them as a distraction. In the Conservative manifesto of 1945 Churchill insists that people should not be dependent on a “state machine” and that they should “preserve that spirit of independence”. The fact that 100,000 copies of the Beveridge Reports were sold ought to have alerted Churchill in advance to the fact that, after so much strife, the British public wanted to be able to have more dependancy on the government and may shift their support to secure the welfare state they deserved.
Another reason for why people voted Labour, which could have been anticipated earlier, was that naturally after so many years of war people wanted some control over their lives. They wanted to even out the relationship between the people and the government. The Beveridge reports introduced this new relationship. Source 3 says that the new social reform would be achieved by “co-operation between the State and the individual”, therefore I believe that source 3 strongly supports the view that the landslide could have been foreseen earlier.
On the other hand I can understand why the landslide was so unexpected; Churchill is one of the most popular British leaders and people believed that nobody else could have been a “national leader with greater success than Churchill”, therefore he seemed a more obvious choice for the role of getting the country back on its feet, having saved the country from invasion. This is suggested by source 5 which says that Churchill’s policies “have been tested anew in the fires of war”. This showed confidence in their policies which according to the conservatives were tried and tested; a strong contrast from the the Labour manifesto which was all about change, “modernisation and re-equipment” as mentioned in source 4.
Moreover the election of Atlee came as a surprise because in a poll in 1945, Churchill’s approval rate was 83% what’s more source 1 suggests that Churchill was“unbeatable-as David Lloyd George” who had been the Prime Minister during the first world war. Therefore source 1 disagrees with the idea that the landslide could have been predicted. However source 4 challenges the idea that people would want to keep the same leader because Labour believed that the nation needed “a tremendous overhaul”.
Overall I believe that the sources do strongly suggest that the landslide could have been predicted a long time in advance because as soon as the war was over in 1939 people were desperate for the sort of change described in the Labour manifesto (source 4). Although Churchill led the British through the war and is considered as one of the “greatest englishman of all time”, he would not offer the public opportunities like the ones offered in the Beveridge Reports in 1942 which would transform the country.