How successful were the labour governments of 1964-1970 in fulfilling their promise to create a New Britain? During 1964 to 1970, The Labour government planned to create a ‘New Britain’ under the leadership of Harold Wilson. The most important successes of the Labour government include education, social freedoms and the freedoms of women. However, the most important failures of labour included its lack of the scientific minds in the party and its failure of large economic and technological advancement. Firstly, the Labour Government had hopes of reviving and advancing the technology in Britain.
In their manifesto, Labour stated ‘We shall create a New Britain – mobilising the resources of technology. ’ This can be supported by their development of a Ministry of Technology and an attempt to base government on scientific principles. In which an emphasis was placed on planning, management and professionalism. Socially, there was an advance towards a more mobile, less class-ridden Britain. With the introduction of the Establishment of the Race Relations Board, which aimed to tackle racial discrimination and promote racial equality.
Before the Wilson period, Britain was viewed as segregated, however Labour wanted to change this and integrate society more. A success shown by Labour during this period was the attempt to break down the old class barriers. ‘It was a very good time for the arts and many aspects of education, the Open University in particular. ’ This provides information which supports the idea that the Labour governments of 1964–1970 were a success in creating a new modern Britain. As well as the Open University, Labour’s other education policies included; the development of comprehensive schools and the expansion of higher education.
Leading on from this, Labour was successful in building upon social freedoms as well. The establishment of the Ministry of Arts under Jennie Lee increased cultural opportunities. This provided funding for the Arts Council and British Film Institute. By doing this, they showed concern to broaden cultural opportunities for all. Furthermore, the Wilson years were in many ways seen as successful and creative. ‘It was an era of social and sexual freedom. ’ As Paul Johnson wrote after the 1970 election ‘We no longer terrorise homosexuals. We do not force mothers to bring forth unwanted children into the world.
We do not murder by the rope’. This showed signs of liberalisation against; homosexuality, divorce, abortion and the end of hanging. Thus, supporting the view of the Labour Government trying to create a new modern society. On the other hand, it can be seen that the Labour government never lived up to its manifesto promise to create a New Britain. One of the major factors why Labour was unsuccessful was due to its economic failures. Labour had higher tax rates than the Conservative government and the unions wanted to stop the technological advances in industries.
Conservative policies of ‘Rising incomes and lower taxes have made possible a spectacular increase in spending on the essentials’ for British people. Another economic problem that arose during this period was Labour’s slowness to bring about devaluation. Devaluation was when the issuing government had mandated that the price of the currency in foreign dollars is lower than it was before. This added to economic problems as a result of inflation remaining high at 12% between 1969–1970. The Labour Government did not succeed in changing the living conditions of the people. Under Conservative rule the living standards of the British people have improved more than in the whole of the previous half-century. ’ This is shown where over 98% of the working population have jobs that have caused the standard of living for people to increase. This differs from Labour’s ideals, where they focused more on social reforms rather than improving beneficial changes in the country. In addition, Conservatives did not believe the ideas Labour was suggesting about creating a New Britain. Rather they deemed it to be a ‘camouflage aged return to dreary doctrines which have already proved a failure. Also, the doctrine showed no mention of moral issues, because leaders like Wilson and Brown were conservative on such issues. The Conservatives believed what they were offering was an extension of prosperity which their policies had been proven to achieve. In conclusion, the Labour Government did have some successes during this period in creating a New Britain, which was mainly due to the support they were given by the government. The development of a Ministry of Technology put an emphasis on planning, management and professionalism.
And, developing education policies, which included the development of comprehensive schools and the expansion of higher education, meant a breakdown of social barriers. However, The Labour Government never fully achieved its successes in creating a New Britain. This was due to the failure of the economic policies such as Labour having higher taxes than the conservatives. And finally, the Conservative fears that implied Labour’s ‘New Britain’ would have meant a return to the ‘dreary’ and failed doctrines of the past Labour Governments.