Consensus Here, Consensus There … but not Consensus Everywhere: The Labour Party, Equality and Social Policy in the 1950s

  • Nick Ellison
Part of the Contemporary History in Context Series book series (CHIC)


A good deal has been written about the existence, or not, of a ‘postwar consensus’.1 While many contemporary historians treat the period from 1940 through to, at least, the early 1960s as one marked by common agreement about the basic objectives and principles of government amongst the leaders of both major political parties, others believe the level of consensus has been overstated.2 ‘Consensus’ on this second view exists more in the mind of those who look back nostalgically to a pre-Thatcherite past where, to echo L. P. Hartley, things were done differently — and with less rancour. Much depends, of course, on how ‘consensus’ is defined. This chapter will employ two separate but equally plausible interpretations, one ‘procedural’ the other ‘substantive’, in order to demonstrate the difficulties associated with efforts to treat Labour’s approach to social policy in the 1950s in consensual terms.


Welfare State Full Employment Political Argument Policy Proposal Social Reform 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1996

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  • Nick Ellison

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