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Political Context

The following quotes and links are taken from commentary, debate and political party manifestos that oppose or disagree with the socialist movement and their strategy, policies and themes. They are organized into the relevant themes covered in The Spirit of ’45 and they offer alternative view points and political philosophies.

Key quotes are selected and annotated with links to review the article or publication in full. They are organized by both theme and date to provide context in relation to the debate and thinking on key policies of the time.

General Commentary

From Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” Speech Fifty Years Later by edited by James W.Muller published by University of Missouri Press:

"A Labour Government is a government of the duds, by the duds and for the duds." Sir Winston Churchill  - commenting on the 1927 Budget.
2013: Simon Jenkins writing in The Guardian on the legacy of Margaret Thatcher
“I think on balance Thatcher did for Britain what was needed at the time. History will judge her, but not a country in Europe was untouched by Thatcher's example. Under Heath and Jim Callaghan the question was widely asked: had democracies become "ungovernable"? Had pollsters and the 24/7 media forced leaders to follow opinion, not lead it?

Thatcher answered that question, re-energising the concept of democratic leadership. It was sad that she had to learn it in war, a grim example to her British and US successors. She was lucky, in her enemies and friends – notably Reagan in the Falklands conflict. She was lucky in surviving the IRA's bomb.”

2012: George Osborne on the economy under the Coalition Government 
“Over the last two years, this Government has cut the record budget deficit it inherited from Labour by a quarter. Since the general election, the private sector has created over 1 million new jobs – well over two new jobs in the private sector for every one job lost in the public sector. Our borrowing costs have fallen to record lows, showing that UK government debt is seen as a safe haven in the global debt storm and saving money for taxpayers, businesses and families. We have used the strength of our balance sheet to set up the unlimited Funding for Lending Scheme and a package of infrastructure guarantees worth £50 billion.” George Osborne

1 October 1999: From “Well Done Tony! You’ve given William His Chance!” published in the Daily Telegraph:
“Socialism's results have ranged between the merely shabby and the truly catastrophic - poverty, strife, oppression and, on the killing fields of communism, the deaths this century of perhaps 100 million people. Against that doctrine was set a contrary, conservative belief in a law-governed liberty. It was this view which triumphed with the crumbling of the Berlin Wall. Since then, the Left has sought rehabilitation by distancing itself from its past.” Margaret Thatcher 1999

1 April 1997 : From “The Boneless Wonder of New Labour” published in the Daily Telegraph:
“Even I sometimes find it hard to remember how truly dreadful conditions in socialist Britain were. Inflation then at over 25 per cent; now under three per cent. Top rate income tax then at 83 per cent - 40 per cent now. Nationalised industries then losing £50 million a week; privatised industries now contributing nearly £60 million a week to the Exchequer. Industrial relations transformed. Productivity transformed. Reputation transformed.” Margaret Thatcher – outlining the successes of her own government.

Further Reading: The Collected Speeches of Margaret Thatcher Edited by Robin Harvey.

1995: The Downing Street Years by Margaret Thatcher

“No theory of government was ever given a fairer test or a more prolonged experiment in a democratic country than democratic socialism received in Britain. Yet it has been a miserable failure in every respect. Far from reversing the slow relative decline of Britain vis-a-vis its main industrial competitors, it accelerated it. We fell further behind them, until by 1979 we were widely dismissed as 'the sick man of Europe.” Margaret Thatcher

28 November 1990: Margaret Thatcher when leaving Downing Street for the last time.
“Ladies and gentlemen we are leaving Downing Street for the last time after eleven and a half wonderful years and we are very happy that we leave the United Kingdom in a very much better state than when we came here eleven and a half years ago” Margaret Thatcher

6 February 1976: Margaret Thatcher on her opposition to Nationalisation speaking to Finchley Conservatives at Selbourne Hall, Southgate.
“When you take into public ownership a profitable industry the profits soon disappear. The goose that laid the golden eggs goes broody. State geese are not great layers.” Margaret Thatcher

Further Reading: “Not For Turning: The Life of Margaret Thatcher” by Robin Harris.

1964: Sir Alec Douglas-Home writing in the Conservative Party General Election Manifesto “Prosperity With a Purpose” commenting on the Labour Party’s policies.
“On examination, what the Labour Party have to offer is not a "New Britain", but a camouflaged return to the dreary doctrines which had already proved a failure when they were last dismissed from office.” Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Further Reading: “The Way The Wind Blows: An Autobiography”  by Lord Home

1959: Harold Macmillan writing in the Conservative Party General Election Manifesto “The Next Five Years”.
“We are utterly opposed to any extension of nationalisation, by whatever means. We shall do everything possible to ensure improved commercial standards of operation and less centralisation in those industries already nationalised.”

Further Reading: “Harold Macmillan”  by Charles Williams and  “Harold Macmillan: 1894 – 1956: Volume 1: The Making of a Prime Minister”  by Harold Macmillan and Peter Catterall.

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2012: The Secretary of State on the pension system achievements by the Conservative Party.

“This Government has delivered the biggest ever cash increase to the state pension – in April 2012, the state pension increased by £5.30 a week. This is thanks to our triple lock, which makes sure the basic state pension will always rise by the highest of average earnings, inflation, or 2.5 per cent. David Cameron was elected on a promise to protect universal benefits for pensioners and that is what he has done. Conservatives in Government have protected these benefits including: the winter fuel allowance, free TV licenses, free bus passes and free prescriptions. We are reforming the complex state pension system, so that there is a single-tier basic state pension. This will deliver a fair, sustainable, simple state pension. We have introduced automatic enrolment – so that most people in work are automatically included in a workplace pension scheme. This will boost the number of people saving for their pension, which plummeted under Labour." Iain Duncan- Smith

Further Reading: “The Evolution of the British Welfare State: A History of Social Policy since the Industrial Revolution” by Derek Fraser.

16 May 1991: Norman Lamont speaking in the House of Commons on unemployment and inflation. Hansard, HC 6Ser vol 191 col 413

"If higher unemployment is the price we have to pay in order to bring inflation down, then it is a price worth paying." Norman Lamont, Chancellor of the Exchequer, 1992

Further Reading: Oxford Essential Quotations Edited by Susan Ratcliffe and In Office by Norman Lamont.

23 September 1987: Margaret Thatcher in an Interview with Douglas Keay for Woman’s Own magazine.
“I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand “I have a problem, it is the Government's job to cope with it!” or “I have a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!” “I am homeless, the Government must house me!” and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then also to help look after our neighbour and life is a reciprocal business and people have got the entitlements too much in mind without the obligations, because there is no such thing as an entitlement unless someone has first met an obligation and it is, I think, one of the tragedies in which many of the benefits we give, which were meant to reassure people that if they were sick or ill there was a safety net and there was help.” Margaret Thatcher.

1983: David Steel, Leader of the Liberal Party and Roy Jenkins, Leader of the Social Democratic Party writing in the 1983 Liberal – SDP Aliance Election Manifesto “Working Together For Britain”.

“Much of the present unemployment is a direct result of the civil war in British industry, of restrictive practices and low investment. But in addition Conservative Government policies have caused unemployment to rise. An Alliance Government would cause unemployment to fall. How? Can it be done without releasing a fresh wave of inflation?

We believe it can. We propose a carefully devised and costed jobs programme aimed at reducing unemployment by 1 million over two years. This programme will be supported by immediate measures to help those hardest hit by the slump - the disadvantaged, the pensioners, the poor.

Ours is a programme of mind, heart and will, it is a programme that will work!” David Steel and Roy Jenkins

1966: Jo Grimond on failures of the Labour and Conservative Governments in turn writing in the 1966 Liberal Party General Election Manifesto “Britain Demands a New Approach.”

“Eighteen months ago many people had high hopes that a change of Government from Conservative to Labour would bring about a real change in the country's fortunes. They had watched the country drift from one economic crisis to another and seen how Britain's rate of expansion and industrial growth had continued to fall behind that of other countries. Now events have shown that, for all their talk about modernisation, Labour too cannot find the answer to our problems. However admirable their intentions. they, like the Conservatives, have been unable to implement workable solutions. There are very simple reasons for this. Both parties have their roots firmly in one section of the community or another. The Conservatives. both ideologically and financially, are still tied to the interests of capital. Equally Labour are tied to the interests of the Unions, often to the detriment of both. Is it surprising that their actions are seldom acceptable or effective for the country as a whole?" Jo Grimond

1951: Winston Churchill attacks Socialism and Nationalisation in his 1951 Conservative Party General Election Manifesto.
“The attempt to impose a doctrinaire Socialism upon an Island which has grown great and famous by free enterprise has inflicted serious injury upon our strength and prosperity.” Winston Churchill

“Nationalisation has proved itself a failure which has resulted in heavy losses to the taxpayer or the consumer, or both. It has not given general satisfaction to the wage-earners in the nationalised industries. It has impaired the relations of the Trade Unions with their members. In more than one nationalised industry the wage-earners are ill-content with the change from the private employers, with whom they could negotiate on equal terms through the Trade Unions, to the all-powerful and remote officials in Whitehall.” Winston Churchill

Further Reading: Never Give In! The Best of Winston Churchill’s Speeches by Winston Churchill and Winston S. Churchill

1950: Winston Churchill on The Socialist Failure and the dangers facing society in his 1950 Conservative Party General Election Manifesto This is the Road: The Conservative and Unionist Party’s Policy.

“But the Socialists have failed in their duty. National resources have been squandered. Individual effort has been discouraged or suppressed. National unity has been deeply injured. The Government have shrunk from the realities of the situation and have not told the people the truth.”

“From the time they acquired power they pretended that their policy was bringing the prosperity they had promised. They tried to make out that before they got a majority the whole history of Great Britain, so long admired and envied throughout the world, was dark and dismal. They spread the tale that social welfare is something to be had from the State free, gratis and for nothing. They have put more money into circulation, but it has bought less and less.” Winston Churchill

Further Reading: Their Finest Hour (The Second World War) by Winston S. Churchill, and Memoirs of the Second World War by Winston S. Churchill

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2013: Jeremy Hunt on Conservative Health policy writing on the Conservative Party’s official website.

“The NHS is our country's most precious asset. Over the last two years, because of the dedication of staff across the country, the NHS has maintained or improved quality across the board – reducing waiting times to record lows, reducing hospital infections to their lowest levels ever, increasing access to dentistry, delivering more doctors and fewer administrators, and giving thousands of patients the cancer drugs they need.
Though there is much still to do, it is clear that the NHS is achieving outcomes which are among the best in the world. We are determined to make sure this continues.”

“We are increasing the budget available to the NHS every year. We are giving doctors and nurses the freedom to design services for their patients. We are giving patients more power over how and where they are treated.” Jeremy Hunt

Further Reading: “A National Health Service?: The Restructuring of Health Care in Britain since 1979”  by John Mohan.

1987: David Steel and David Owen attach the lack of spending by the Conservatives on the National Health Service and set out their own spending strategy for health in the 1987 SDP – Liberal Alliance General Election Manifesto 'Britain United - The Time Has Come.'

“The National Health Service is in a state of fundamental crisis and malaise. It is suffering shortages and declining standards. Our people are seeing their services cut, their waiting lists lengthened, and more and more needs going unmet. Unless a Government is elected again which is committed to the ideas and ideals of a National Health Service, one of the great achievements of 20th century civilised society could be in irreversible decline.

We will back the National Health Service by increasing its budget so that by year five it will be £1 billion per annum higher than that planned by the Conservatives. Our Health Service was once the envy of the world: now the strains under which it is working are well known, and we are losing some of the best health professionals who can no longer do the job they were trained to do because of inadequate resources. We aim to restore a sense of pride in the Health Service and to give it a new sense of direction.” David Steel & David Owen

Further Reading: Time to Declare by David Owen and David Steel: Rising Hope to Elder Statement by David Torrance.

1955: The Conservative Prime Minister attacks the Labour Governments lack of spending on health and hospitals in his 1955 Conservative Party General Election Manifesto “United for Peace and Progress: The Conservative and Unionist Party’s Policy.”

“New hospital building was completely neglected by the Socialist Government. A start is now being made. Plans have been announced and will be carried out over the next few years for the building of new hospitals, both general and mental, and for the extension and modernisation of many existing hospitals. We are making special arrangements to replace worn out and obsolete hospital plant and equipment. We shall seek to open new beds where they are most needed, to recruit extra staff and to provide better facilities. We desire to see steady progress in all forms of preventive work. These are our priorities: we rank them higher than free wigs or free aspirins.” Anthony Eden

Infrastructure Image


2013: Patrick McLoughlin sets out the transport investment policy of the Conservative Party to rebuild Britain’s transport system.

“Conservatives in Government are delivering a modern transport infrastructure that is essential for growth and business, as well as improving people's lives. We are reforming our railways, investing in infrastructure, building High Speed Two, and unblocking our roads – to deliver a transport system that works for the 21st Century.

We have announced £9 billion to improve our railways in what is the biggest investment in our railways since the Victorian era. We are also reforming our railway system to cut the £3.5 billion of waste going unchecked by the last Labour Government.

We are building new roads, investing money to tackle congestion and looking at how we can get private funding to help build our roads for the future.

To keep Britain as one of the best connected countries in the world, the Government has introduced the Civil Aviation Bill, published a draft aviation framework and has set up an independent Commission into maintaining our hub status.” Patrick McLoughlin

1997: The Conservative Prime Minister hits back at claims from the Labour Party that “The Conservative plan for the wholesale privatisation of London Underground is not the answer. It would be a poor deal for the taxpayer and passenger alike,” with his reasons why privatization is the answer in the 1997 General Election Manifesto “You Can Only Be Sure With The Conservatives”.
The Conservative Party Manifesto 1997

“We will bring forward plans to privatise London Underground. Proceeds from privatisation will be recycled in order to modernise the network within 5 years - creating an underground system to serve the capital in the 21st century. We will regulate fares so they rise by no more than inflation for at least 4 years after privatisation. We will also protect services - including the Travel Card and concessionary fares.” John Major

Further Reading: “John Major: The Autobiography” and “Major: A Political Life”  by Anthony Seldon.

1966: Jo Grimond criticizes Harold Wilson’s Labour Government’s National Plan for transport investment and proposes a strong financial commitment to the nation’s infrastructure. The Liberal Party’s 1966 Manifesto “Britain Demands a New Approach.”

“Whether we are private motorists, farmers or industrialists, poor road and rail communications affect us all, but particularly they strike at the root of exports, regional development, prices and agricultural expansion. Yet Britain's motorway network is smaller than that built in Germany thirty years ago, and under the National Plan investment in new roads gets a pitiful low priority. A network of motorways can and must be constructed without throwing an additional burden on the taxpayer. Those who use roads want to see results. The new motorways should be Pay Roads. This would mean a small charge to the user, but it would be more than balanced by savings in fuel, delays, and wear and tear.

It would enable public loans to be raised, to build the roads quickly, and would provide a communication system to galvanise the economy.

British Rail's passenger and freight services must be rationalised, co-ordinated, and streamlined to meet the real demands of the customer.

In other countries, air shuttle services between cities are profitable. Why not here? Our provincial airports must be modernised and the number of inter-city services and airports increased as the regions of Britain are developed.” Jo Grimond



1987: Margaret Thatcher firmly advocates home ownership in the 1987 Conservative Party General Election Manifesto 'The Next Moves Forward,' in a firm response to Labour’s claims that “public funding has fallen by 60 per cent during Mrs Thatcher’s eight years in office.”

“Nowhere has the spread of ownership been more significant than in housing. Buying their own home is the first step most people take towards building up capital to hand down to their children and grandchildren. It gives people a stake in society - something to conserve. It is the foundation stone of a capital-owning democracy.

A home should be a source of pride and independence to the family living in it, regardless of whether it is owned or rented. We will ensure that every family in the land has the opportunity to make it so.
Home-ownership has been the great success story of housing policy in the last eight years. One million council tenants have become home-owners and another one and a half million more families have become home-owners for the first time. Two out of every three homes are now owned by the people who live in them. This is a very high proportion, one of the largest in the world. We are determined to make it larger still.” Margaret Thatcher

1964: Alec Douglas-Home responds to the Labour Party’s claims that “under the Tories…high interest rates and soaring land prices have pushed housing and flats beyond the reach of many ordinary families and have condemned yet another generation to squalid and over-crowded housing.” From the 1964 Conservative Party Election Manifesto “Prosperity With a Purpose.”
The Conservative Party Manifesto 1964

“More than half of the million houses classified as unfit when our slum clearance drive began have been replaced. One third of the 2,500,000 older houses capable of improvement have been given a new lease of life with the aid of Government grant.

In the towns and cities where most remaining slums are concentrated, clearance rates are being doubled. We aim to clear by 1973 virtually all the known slums. As each authority completes this task, we shall go on to redevelop out-dated residential areas.

Already 130,000 sound older houses are being modernised each year. The 1964 Housing Act provides for systematic improvement in older areas, with powers of compulsion where landlords are not persuaded to co-operate by the better grant arrangements. In this way we shall step up modernisation to 200,000 a year.

We intend to revise the system of housing subsidies. Provided authorities charge proper rents, with rebates for those who cannot afford them, they will be able to plan ahead confidently and maintain necessary programmes especially for slum clearance, relief of overcrowding new and expanded towns, and the needs of the elderly - without burdening the rates.” Sir Alec Douglas Home

1955: The Conservative Prime Minister defends his housing policy outlining the success of their re-building programme in the 1955 Conservative Party Manifesto 'United for Peace and Progress.'
The Conservative Party Manifesto 1955

“Our Party's pledge to build 300,000 houses a year was derided by our opponents as impossible to fulfill. In fact nearly 350,000 were built last year, and at least as many are likely to be built this year. Already under Conservative Government a million new homes have been provided.” Anthony Eden

1950: Winston Churchill derides the Labour Party’s housing programme in the 1950 Conservative Party Manifesto 'This is the Road.'

“Before the war, under free enterprise with a Conservative government, the nation was getting a thousand new houses every day. The latest Socialist target is five hundred. In fact, the cuts caused by the devaluation of the pound have now reduced the Housing Programme to a figure which will result in 30,000 fewer houses a year than were built in 1931 at the height of the world economic crisis. Moreover, house building is now costing three times as much as it did before the war. We cannot believe that this is the last word in modern planning.” Winston Churchill

Industry Image


2013: David Young writes a retrospective in The Daily Telegraphy about the Margaret Thatcher’s  greatest legacy – the transformation of the British economy from the worst to the best in Europe.

“Margaret Thatcher’s attitude to business and enterprise was moulded and shaped by two men, her father and her husband. Alfred Roberts was a successful small businessman who was fascinated by local politics. She grew up in a home where the problems and rewards of enterprise were everyday conversation coupled with the need to bring these principles, of thrift, efficiency and the avoidance of waste, into local government
When she married Denis, she married a successful businessman, an entrepreneur whose success enabled her to embark on her political career. He had inherited a family business, built it up and sold out to a major oil company, after which he spent some decades as a director of numerous companies.

These two influences were the foundation of her belief that government could not run business and her unshakeable determination not to expand the public sector. In 1981, when Ian MacGregor was grappling with a moribund British Steel and proposed buying Kaiser Steel in the US, she was resolute in forbidding any expansion of the still nationalised industry, against the wishes of many of her colleagues. She knew that many a short-term expansion would turn into a permanent investment in time.”

1988: Sir Alec Douglas-Home on Margaret Thatcher.

“She made up her mind really quite a long time ago that the country's future was damaged, really, by the trade unions, and she made up her mind to deal with that. And she made up her mind that inflation was the worst enemy of progress. And the two things, of course, were connected because trade union activities led to an increase in costs. And she did them both. I think she felt her instincts were right and made up her mind to follow them, and in the course of that has done on the whole very well.” Alec Douglas-Home

1964: Alec Douglas-Home writes in 'Prosperity With A Purpose', the 1964 Conservative Party General Election Manifesto.

“Record progress is being made in modernising industry. Today capital investment in new factories, construction, plant and equipment is twice as high as when the Socialists left office. Our financial incentives for this purpose are now the best in the world, and we shall see that tax policies continue to stimulate industrial innovation.”

“Whilst recognising the Government's obligation to assist in these ways, we are convinced that the rapidly changing world of industrial technology is the last place for Socialism. It calls for a flexibility, and a response to new ideas and requirements, which a system of free competitive enterprise is best suited to provide. The Conservative Party is utterly opposed to any extension of nationalisation, whether outright or piecemeal. We propose to complete the denationalisation of steel. Industries in public ownership will continue to be developed as modern businesses.” Alec Douglas-Home

1950: The Conservative Leader, Winston Churchill condemn what he calls the “socialist mismanagement” in the Conservative Party General Election Manifesto, 'This is the Road.'

“In 1945, the Socialists promised that their methods of planning and nationalisation would make the people of Britain masters of their economic destiny. Nothing could be more untrue. Every forecast has proved grossly over-optimistic. Every crisis has caught them unawares. The Fuel Crisis cost the country £200 millions and the Convertibility Crisis as much. Ambitious plans have gone awry. Nearly thirty million pounds have already been muddled away on the Groundnuts Scheme. Railway engines were converted to burn oil because coal was scarce and then converted back again because oil was even scarcer. With the same labour force as before the war little more than half as many houses are being built. Despite the promise of the Minister of Health that "when the next Election occurs there will be no housing problem in Great Britain for the working class", waiting lists for council houses in many districts are longer now than they were five years ago.
Socialism has imposed a crushing burden of taxation amounting to eight shillings of every pound earned in this country. Enterprise and extra effort have been stifled. Success has been penalised. Thrift and savings have been discouraged. A vote for Socialism is a vote to continue the policy which has endangered our economic and present independence both as a nation and as men and women.” Winston Churchill

1950: The Conservative Leader, Winston Churchill advocates stopping the Nationalisation of British Industry in the Conservative Party General Election Manifesto, “This is the Road.”

“The Conservative Party will encourage in industry the highest level of efficient production and the most effective partnership between owners, executives and operatives. To day all forms of production and distribution are hampered in a Socialist atmosphere which denies enterprise its reward while making life too easy for the laggards. Monopoly and bureaucracy should give place to competition and enterprise. All enterprises, large and small, should have a fair field.”

“We shall do everything to help the trade unions to serve the best interests of the nation and their members. The foundation of industrial endeavour must be good human relationships, not impersonal control from aloft and afar. For all those engaged in production we shall provide opportunity, freedom and a fair share of the proceeds, and for the consumer greater variety of choice at prices to suit his pocket.

“We shall bring Nationalisation to a full stop here and now. Thereby we shall save all those industries, such as cement, sugar, meat distribution, chemicals, water and insurance which are now under threat by the Socialists. We shall repeal the Iron and Steel Act before it can come into force. Steel will remain under free enterprise, but its policy on prices and development will be supervised as in recent years by a Board representative of Government, management, labour and consumers.

The nationalisation of omnibuses and tramways will be halted. Wherever possible those already nationalised will be offered to their former owners, whether private or municipal. We shall also be prepared to sell back to free enterprise those sections of the road haulage industry which have been nationalised, and to restore the former system of A and B licences. The limitation of distance on private road hauliers will be progressively eliminated. The present freedom of C licences will remain untouched.” Winston Churchill

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