1945–51: Parallel Lines

  • Timothy Raison


In Ruling Performance, a book edited by Peter Hennessy and Anthony Seldon about British governments from Attlee to Thatcher, Lord Fraser of Kilmorack draws on his unique backroom experience of Conservative policy-making to sum up the postwar period.1 He writes:

In a fundamental sense, there must always be a good deal of common ground between the main parties alternating in government in a free society. When in power, after all, they are governing the same country, with the same history, people, problems and elbow-room, or lack of it, within the same world. Because the two main parties coming out of the coalition government in 1945 had already hammered out, not without some hard bargaining and horse-trading, the broad policies for dealing after the war with those social problems that had been identified and prepared for during the war on the basis of the Beveridge Report, the Employment Policy White Paper and the Butler Education Act of 1944, there was for a time an unusual degree of apparent unity of aim. To say, however, that the situation after 1945 amounted to a ‘consensus’ is a myth of more recent origin. No one thought that at the time. The real position was like that of two trains, starting off from parallel platforms at some great London terminus and running for a time on broadly parallel lines but always heading for very different destinations.


Parallel Line Coalition Government Postwar Period Labour Party Conservative Party 
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  1. 1.
    P. Hennessy and A. Seldon, Ruling Performance (Oxford: Blackwell, 1987) pp. 310–11.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    J. and S. Jewkes, The Genesis of the British National Health Service (Oxford: Blackwell, 1961) p. 48.Google Scholar
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    The Industrial Charter (London: CPC, 1947 Report of the Industrial Committee, Chrd R. A. Butler).Google Scholar
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    Q. Hogg, The Case for Conservatism (Hardmondsworth: Penguin, 1947) p. 256.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 259.Google Scholar
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    The Right Road for Britain (London: CPC, 1949) p. 9.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 37.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 39.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 41.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 42.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 9.Google Scholar
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    Ibid.,p. 18.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 37.Google Scholar
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    R. A. Butler, The Art of the Possible (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1971) p. 155.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Timothy Raison 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Timothy Raison

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