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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning
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ThaHoward

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Tommy4ever

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The Election of 1954

As Eden’s government hoped to make the minor gains necessary to secure a majority in its own right, and hold back the tide of Thorneycroft’s popular advance, the 1954 election was not so much dominated by the question of what shape the next government would take but by a seismic shift in British politics.


As the Conservatives and National Liberals failed to make sufficient gains to achieve a majority, alongside the Ulster Unionist MPs, by the narrowest of margins all eyes were focused on the shifting ground to the Left of the government. In the lead up to the election Nye Bevan had taken a tremendous risk. By agreeing to an electoral pact with the Communists he had been tempted by the siren calls of working class unity, something he and millions of others had sought after for decades, and the more calculated belief that the additional voters the Communists could give his alliance would make up for the moderate Labourites alienated by the pact who were aligned to his opponents within the party anyway. Bevan’s gamble proved an uninhibited disaster. The Communist vote was barely half the size of vote driven away from Labour, the party lost more than 200 seats, being wiped out across large parts of the country. Worst still, as the Liberals benefitted hugely from the surge of ex-Labour votes, a number of trade union leaders openly switched allegiance to the Liberal Party. Not only had Bevan failed to return Labour to government – he now risked seeing his party losing all the gains made by Labour since the crises relating to the National Government of Ramsay MacDonald had threatened to destroy it in the early 1930s.

As Labour succumbed to its worst result since before Attlee assumed the leadership in 1935, the Liberals stormed to their best since before the First World War – not only achieving more than 1/3 of the popular vote but also winning more seats than any other party and coming tantalisingly close to winning dozens more. Sinclair’s regeneration of the Liberal Party from its 1930s nadir appeared to be almost complete – from a dying body awaiting the final end it had first become a party of government before rising to the status of a genuine contender for power. It was a remarkable turnaround.


In 1950 Herbert Morrison had been the leading force on the right wing of the Labour Party fighting vociferously against the Bevanite Left – prior to Bevan’s rise he had been considered by most to be the most likely successor to Clement Attlee. Although never quite recovering from his defeat in the party leadership contest of 1950, Morrison remained Deputy Leader of the Labour Party – and the Shadow Deputy Prime Minister for the next four years. Sitting in what appeared to be a safe seat in East Lewisham, 1954 would prove to be an incredible humiliation. Just as Labour MPs across the land lost their seats, in East Lewisham one of the party’s leading lights saw 2/3s of the Labour vote fall away as massive numbers of voters defected to the Liberal Party – the Liberals remarkably climbing from third to first place as Morrison finished behind comparatively unknown Liberal and National Liberal candidates. Morrison’s defeat came to symbolise the catastrophic nature of the 1954 election for the Labour Party.


The election was not a disaster for the Left in all parts of the country. In areas with a strong local Communist presence the electoral pact was a godsend – allowing Left candidates to capture seats in regions where the historic division of the Leftist vote between Communists and Labour candidates had allowed a third party to succeed. Just across London from Morrison’s defeat in Battersea North, a constituency famous for electing Communist Shapurji Saklatvala twice during the 1920s, the Indo-Swedish CPGB candidate Rajani Palme Dutt restored his place in the Commons having initially been elected in 1945 only to lose his seat four years later. Campaigning as a ‘Communist-Labour’ candidate like other CPGB members standing in the 1954 election, the election of an unapologetically Stalinist hardliner like Dutt, a man who had briefly served as General Secretary from 1939-41 when Pollitt had clashed Soviet policy, was symbolic of disastrous nature of the electoral pact from the perspective of the Labour Party. It was abundantly clear that without the pact, a figure like Dutt could not have hoped to secure a seat.


In the Kentish constituency of Dartford a young National Liberal candidate named Margaret Roberts secured a surprise victory, benefitting from the dramatic fall of the Labour and the weakness of the local Liberal Party she secured her place in the Commons. Although influenced by many of the same ideas as had inspired Thorneycroft, Roberts favoured the unification of the National Liberal and Conservative parties over Thorneycroft’s separatism – fearing that such a policy would condemn Britain to the rule of the Left. Shortly after the election Roberts would go on to marry Dennis Thatcher – assuming the name history would best remember.


Just as the previous election had, 1954 produced a hung parliament with the government falling short of the majority it needed to govern without the involvement of the now much enlarged Liberal Party. With Sinclair showing a willingness to continue working with Eden’s administration, the Prime Minister had secured an extension to the life of his government, yet it appeared more fragile than it had prior to the election. The Liberals were now a much more prominent force, less willing to compromise and expectant of a greater share of political power, whilst within the government the extreme supporters of Peter Thorneycroft had made notable advances and threatened to cause trouble for the administration.


Left to Right: Rab Butler - Chancellor of the Exchequer, Ernest Brown – Foreign Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister, Peter Thorneycroft – Home Secretary
In light of Thorneycroft’s troublesome nature and rising influence, Eden was forced into a cabinet reshuffle that saw his rise from a minor position to the office of Home Secretary – one of the most prominent of all cabinet offices. In truth, Thorneycroft had wanted to be Chancellor in order to carry through major monetarist reform, yet Eden was unwilling to allow such experimentation, retaining the One Nationist Rab Butler in that position. Thus far, Eden had managed to hold together his fragile coalition quite successfully – it remained to be seen whether he could retain this balancing act through the next election.


In the Labour Party Aneurin Bevan’s leadership had been massively discredited by the catastrophic election result. With the defeat of Herbert Morrison in East Lewisham, the most prominent member of the party’s moderate wing still in parliament was Hugh Gaitskell, the Shadow Chancellor who had only narrowly defeated a Liberal challenge in his own seat. In the years after 1950 Gaitskell had organised a small group of moderate Labour MPs into the ‘Social Democratic Club’ in which theories and strategies were discussed aimed at advancing the Social Democratic cause within Britain. After the election Gaitskell had consulted his close associates within the Social Democratic Club, with all agreeing to sign a petition to Nye Bevan. Less than two weeks after the election, Bevan was presented with the following demands for the reform of the Labour Party was the members of the Social Democratic Club: terminate all alliances with the Communist Party immediately, resign as leader of the Labour Party and allow for the rebirth of Labour’s democratic spirit.

In the face of Gaitskell’s ultimatum three clear factions rapidly began to emerge within Labour. On the Left the Bevan loyalists saw the election as an admittedly major setback but an opportunity to finally unite the labour movement by absorbing the Communist Party and setting out a clear Democratic Socialist political vision. On the Right, by far the smallest group, Gaitskell and his ‘Social Democratic’ supporters wanted to see the party terminate its relationship with the Communists, work closely with the Liberals – calling for them to pull the plug on Eden’s government and allow for new elections that would elect a Centre-Left government, and support moderate policies. Finally, in the Centre a substantial number of disillusioned Bevanites had lost confidence in the course of the leadership, still desiring major reforms and change within society they supported the distancing of the party from the CPGB but were unwilling to see the Labour Party subservient to the Liberals. Bevan’s position was unenviably dire.
 

Tommy4ever

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Included the 'Four Great Offices' to give a view of the cabinet this time as well. Will Eden's government last? Will Thorneycroft split away from the Alliance? Who will win the Labour Party's latest round of vicious faction conflict? Will Britain ever get a nuclear bomb?

All these questions, and more, will be answered next time ...
 

ThaHoward

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((What are these local elections btw? And why are they mentioned? Why not my district? :eek: It have after all 90% votes forl abor :p Now I will resume reading.))

Socialism is falling and this Margaret seems interesting.
 
Last edited:

unmerged(271387)

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Yay for the liberals.
I also like where Labour is going. If only Gaitskell would win within the Labour party...
 

ThaHoward

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Yay for the liberals.
I also like where Labour is going. If only Gaitskell would win within the Labour party...
I think they should continue to become more and more stalinist. Good riddance!
 

LordTempest

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((What are these local elections btw? And why are they mentioned? Why not my district? :eek: It have after all 90% votes forl abor :p Now I will resume reading.))

Socialism is falling and this Margaret seems interesting.
Do you not understand how the Westminster System works? :huh:
 

ThaHoward

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Do you not understand how the Westminster System works? :huh:
((No :p Or I know it is constituency something, but why is only three picked out? Because they stand out in some way?))
 

LordTempest

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((No :p Or I know it is constituency something, but why is only three picked out? Because they stand out in some way?))
There are 640 of them - do you expect Tommy to list all 640? :D
 

ThaHoward

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There are 640 of them - do yu expect Tommy to list all 640? :D
I'm not :) I'm wondering why three are chosen. Are they in a special position? Are they defining in some way?
 

LordTempest

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I'm not :) I'm wondering why three are chosen. Are they in a special position? Are they defining in some way?
Look at the people who are standing for election in those seats. Morrisson was one of the leading Labour figures of the 1945 period and the ahistorically named Margaret Roberts speaks for herself. :)
 

NikoHoI3

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:) Maggie has come, ladies and gentlemen. Bow down to our supreme overlord. :)
 

ThaHoward

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:) Maggie has come, ladies and gentlemen. Bow down to our supreme overlord. :)
Just hope she won't be brought down because of such a silly thing as ending milk at school.

And she seem to be strong willed and won't compromise her ideals.

((As she is in the national liberal party, does this mean that she is a liberal(tarian) and not a conservative in this alternate world?))
 

LordTempest

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Just hope she won't be brought down because of such a silly thing as ending milk at school.
I'd be more worried about Thorneycroft, the separatists and their desire to separate from the Tories ruining her. ;)
 

ThaHoward

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Antonine

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I have a new proposal.

If you add together the Liberal and the National Liberal MPs in parliament it is quite clear that the two liberal parties have won a workable majority between them. Yes, there may be differences between us and yes it may be necessary to make some tough compromises on both sides but it is quite clear that there is no reason why, with roughly equal strength each, the two Liberal parties of Britain should not be reunited as one in order to keep out our Tory enemies on the one side and the Communists on the other.

Why, in the spirit of fraternity, I would even be prepared to recommend Mr Thorneycroft become the Foreign Secretary - one of the Great Seals of state and the best platform to allow him to spread the new message of Liberal unity around the world.

And a great way to keep the bastard as far away from domestic politics as possible.
 

ThaHoward

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The free-market faction is quite strong within the National Libeals, don't forget that. And they have more in common with the Conservatives economically.

But both liberal parties want personal and social freedoms and have roughly the same foreign policies. So there they can agree and meet in the middle economically. I would fully support that. Hopefully it can lead to a radical social policies and increasing the individuals liberties.

Just too bad most national liberals forget about what liberalism is actually about: personal freedom and liberty and a just law system. They forget all this in favor of market-liberalism. It is more important for me to i.e have a democracy and rule of law than cutting subsidues and regulations.
 

atomicsoda

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I have a new proposal.

If you add together the Liberal and the National Liberal MPs in parliament it is quite clear that the two liberal parties have won a workable majority between them. Yes, there may be differences between us and yes it may be necessary to make some tough compromises on both sides but it is quite clear that there is no reason why, with roughly equal strength each, the two Liberal parties of Britain should not be reunited as one in order to keep out our Tory enemies on the one side and the Communists on the other.

Why, in the spirit of fraternity, I would even be prepared to recommend Mr Thorneycroft become the Foreign Secretary - one of the Great Seals of state and the best platform to allow him to spread the new message of Liberal unity around the world.

And a great way to keep the bastard as far away from domestic politics as possible.
You do realize the NLP and Conservatives have an alliance and ran together in the election. To do as you suggest would be to betray promises made to the voters. Secondly, the Conservatives and Liberals are closer on policy (particularly economic policy) than the NLP and Liberals are.
 

ThaHoward

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You do realize the NLP and Conservatives have an alliance and ran together in the election. To do as you suggest would be to betray promises made to the voters. Secondly, the Conservatives and Liberals are closer on policy (particularly economic policy) than the NLP and Liberals are.
But what is the real difference between the liberal parties if you take away economy?

But the national-liberal party is really just a mix of conservatives wanting a free market and liberals wanting a free market. That means in theory the national liberals can be both allied to the liberals and the conservatives. They have both of these camps within their party. Who knows, maybe the conservative and liberal MP's within the National Liberal party will vote differently in parliament? They are after all supposed to represent their district and their voters and not their party leader.

((And it do happen IRL that mp's vote indepedently than the rest of the party. After all the legaslative and (de-facto) executive branch are seperated for a reason.))
 

atomicsoda

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But what is the real difference between the liberal parties if you take away economy?

But the national-liberal party is really just a mix of conservatives wanting a free market and liberals wanting a free market. That means in theory the national liberals can be both allied to the liberals and the conservatives. They have both of these camps within their party. Who knows, maybe the conservative and liberal MP's within the National Liberal party will vote differently in parliament? They are after all supposed to represent their district and their voters and not their party leader.

((And it do happen IRL that mp's vote indepedently than the rest of the party. After all the legaslative and (de-facto) executive branch are seperated for a reason.))
For the next election they can certainly decide if they want to work together but if they did it now it would be a huge kick in the face to the voters of Britain and a huge loss of all credibility of the NLP. The NLP and Conservatives had an electoral alliance and did not run against each other in any constituency. The NLP and Conservative voters voted for the same candidates as there was either a Conservative or NLP running but not both. For the NLP to suddenly abandon the Conservatives would be completely implausible.

((Economy and foreign policy really the only issues that matter, so NLP and Liberals are very different
MP independence varies from nation to nation. In Canada, MPs generally must vote as directed by the Party or they will be removed from the party caucus. In UK, not as strict, by MPs do not have that much independence))
 
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