Why did the Conservatives win the 1951 General Election?


In the election of 1950 Labour's landslide majority of 146 seats from 1945 had been eroded to just 7, leading to Attlee calling the 1951 election in order to try and strengthen Labour once again. However in despite winning the majority of votes (48.8% compared to the Conservatives winning 40%) the Conservatives came out of the 1951 election with an overall majority of 17 seats. The reasons for the results can largely by split into Labour Weaknesses and Conservative Strengths:

Labour Weaknesses


  • Diverse industries such as sugar and cement had been nationalised, which led many to question the merits of state ownership. 
  • Bought out owners but kept them on as managers and directors, which cost the taxpayer £2700 million, and didn't always change much, or improve efficiency, within the industries. 

Problems within the party:

  • Labour figureheads Stafford Cripps and Ernest Bevin had to stand down from the government due to ill-health, Attlee also suffered bouts of illness.
  • Critics, such as D. Pritt, argue the Labour Government was not Socialist enough as they failed to alter class structure or weaken the ruling class.

Effects of the Korean War: 

  • Turned the 1949 surplus of £297 million into a deficit of 3419 million in 1950 
  • Defence expenditure was to be


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