Political history of the United Kingdom (1945–present)

  • modern britain
    8 may 1945 – present
    churchill waves to crowds.jpg
    winston churchill waves to crowds on whitehall on ve day, 8 may 1945, after broadcasting to the nation that the war against germany had been won. ernest bevin stands to his right.
    preceded bysecond world war
    monarch(s)
    • george vi
    • elizabeth ii
    leader(s)
    • sir winston churchill
    • clement attlee
    • sir anthony eden
    • harold macmillan
    • sir alec douglas-home
    • harold wilson
    • edward heath
    • james callaghan
    • margaret thatcher
    • john major
    • tony blair
    • gordon brown
    • david cameron
    • theresa may
    • boris johnson
    periods in english history
    flag of england.svg
    timeline
    part of a series on the
    history of the united kingdom
    map of great britain in 1720
    flag of the united kingdom.svg united kingdom portal

    when britain emerged victorious from the second world war, the labour party under clement attlee came to power and created a comprehensive welfare state, with the establishment of the national health service giving free healthcare to all british citizens, and other reforms to benefits. the bank of england, railways, heavy industry, and coal mining were all nationalised. the most controversial issue was nationalisation of steel, which was profitable unlike the others. economic recovery was slow, housing was in short supply, bread was rationed along with many necessities in short supply. it was an "age of austerity". american loans and marshall plan grants kept the economy afloat. india, pakistan, burma and ceylon gained independence. britain was a strong anti-soviet factor in the cold war and helped found nato in 1949.

    the labour party introduced charges for nhs dental services and glasses in 1951.[1][2] the conservatives returned to power in 1951, accepting most of labour's postwar reforms, but introduced prescription charges to the nhs in 1952 and denationalized steel in 1953. they presided over 13 years of economic recovery and stability. however the suez crisis of 1956 demonstrated britain was no longer a superpower. ghana, malaya, nigeria and kenya were granted independence during this period. labour returned to power under harold wilson in 1964 and oversaw a series of social reforms including the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality and abortion, the relaxing of divorce laws and the end of capital punishment. edward heath returned the conservatives to power from 1970 to 1974, and oversaw the decimalisation of british currency, the accession of britain to the european economic community, and the height of the troubles in northern ireland. in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis and a miner's strike, heath introduced the three-day working week to conserve power.

    labour made a return to power in 1974 but a series of strikes carried out by trade unions over the winter of 1978/79 (known as the winter of discontent) paralysed the country and as labour lost its majority in parliament, a general election was called in 1979 which took margaret thatcher to power and began 18 years of conservative government. victory in the falklands war (1982) and the government's strong opposition to trade unions helped lead the conservative party to another three terms in government. thatcher initially pursued monetarist policies and went on to privatise many of britain's nationalised companies such as british telecom, british gas corporation, british airways and british steel corporation. she kept the national health service. the controversial community charge (commonly called the "poll tax"), used to fund local government was unpopular and the conservatives removed thatcher as prime minister in 1990.

    thatcher's successor john major replaced the poll tax with the council tax and oversaw successful british involvement in the gulf war. despite a recession, major led the conservatives to a surprise victory in 1992. the events of black wednesday in 1992, party disunity over the european union and several scandals involving conservative politicians led to labour under tony blair winning a landslide election victory in 1997. labour had shifted its policies closer to the political centre, under the new slogan 'new labour'. the bank of england was given independence over monetary policy and scotland and wales were given a devolved scottish parliament and welsh assembly respectively. a devolved power sharing northern ireland executive was established in 1998, believed by many to be the end of the troubles.

    blair led britain into the afghanistan and iraq war before leaving office in 2007, when he was succeeded by his chancellor gordon brown. a global recession in 2008–10 led to labour's defeat in the 2010 election. it was replaced by a conservative-liberal democrat coalition, headed by david cameron, that pursued a series of public spending cuts to reduce the budget deficit. in june 2016, the uk voted to leave the european union, which led to cameron's resignation. the conservatives replaced cameron with theresa may.

    may engaged in a policy to take the country out of the european union with her flagship brexit withdrawal agreement. with this deal having failed in the house of commons three times, may resigned. a conservative leadership election ensued, which boris johnson won. on the 24th july 2019, johnson was appointed prime minister.

  • labour government, 1945–51
  • conservative government, 1951–64
  • labour government, 1964–70
  • conservative government, 1970–74
  • labour government, 1974–79
  • conservative government, 1979–97
  • labour government, 1997–2010
  • coalition government, 2010–15
  • conservative government, 2015–present
  • see also
  • footnotes
  • further reading

Modern Britain
8 May 1945 – present
Churchill waves to crowds.jpg
Winston Churchill waves to crowds on Whitehall on VE Day, 8 May 1945, after broadcasting to the nation that the war against Germany had been won. Ernest Bevin stands to his right.
Preceded bySecond World War
Monarch(s)
Leader(s)
Periods in English history
Flag of England.svg
Timeline
Part of a series on the
History of the United Kingdom
Map of Great Britain in 1720
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom portal

When Britain emerged victorious from the Second World War, the Labour Party under Clement Attlee came to power and created a comprehensive welfare state, with the establishment of the National Health Service giving free healthcare to all British citizens, and other reforms to benefits. The Bank of England, railways, heavy industry, and coal mining were all nationalised. The most controversial issue was nationalisation of steel, which was profitable unlike the others. Economic recovery was slow, housing was in short supply, bread was rationed along with many necessities in short supply. It was an "age of austerity". American loans and Marshall Plan grants kept the economy afloat. India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon gained independence. Britain was a strong anti-Soviet factor in the Cold War and helped found NATO in 1949.

The Labour Party introduced charges for NHS dental services and glasses in 1951.[1][2] The Conservatives returned to power in 1951, accepting most of Labour's postwar reforms, but introduced prescription charges to the NHS in 1952 and denationalized steel in 1953. They presided over 13 years of economic recovery and stability. However the Suez Crisis of 1956 demonstrated Britain was no longer a superpower. Ghana, Malaya, Nigeria and Kenya were granted independence during this period. Labour returned to power under Harold Wilson in 1964 and oversaw a series of social reforms including the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality and abortion, the relaxing of divorce laws and the end of capital punishment. Edward Heath returned the Conservatives to power from 1970 to 1974, and oversaw the decimalisation of British currency, the accession of Britain to the European Economic Community, and the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. In the wake of the 1973 oil crisis and a miner's strike, Heath introduced the three-day working week to conserve power.

Labour made a return to power in 1974 but a series of strikes carried out by trade unions over the winter of 1978/79 (known as the Winter of Discontent) paralysed the country and as Labour lost its majority in parliament, a general election was called in 1979 which took Margaret Thatcher to power and began 18 years of Conservative government. Victory in the Falklands War (1982) and the government's strong opposition to trade unions helped lead the Conservative Party to another three terms in government. Thatcher initially pursued monetarist policies and went on to privatise many of Britain's nationalised companies such as British Telecom, British Gas Corporation, British Airways and British Steel Corporation. She kept the National Health Service. The controversial Community Charge (commonly called the "Poll Tax"), used to fund local government was unpopular and the Conservatives removed Thatcher as Prime Minister in 1990.

Thatcher's successor John Major replaced the Poll Tax with the Council Tax and oversaw successful British involvement in the Gulf War. Despite a recession, Major led the Conservatives to a surprise victory in 1992. The events of Black Wednesday in 1992, party disunity over the European Union and several scandals involving Conservative politicians led to Labour under Tony Blair winning a landslide election victory in 1997. Labour had shifted its policies closer to the political centre, under the new slogan 'New Labour'. The Bank of England was given independence over monetary policy and Scotland and Wales were given a devolved Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly respectively. A devolved power sharing Northern Ireland Executive was established in 1998, believed by many to be the end of The Troubles.

Blair led Britain into the Afghanistan and Iraq War before leaving office in 2007, when he was succeeded by his Chancellor Gordon Brown. A global recession in 2008–10 led to Labour's defeat in the 2010 election. It was replaced by a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, headed by David Cameron, that pursued a series of public spending cuts to reduce the budget deficit. In June 2016, the UK voted to leave the European Union, which led to Cameron's resignation. The Conservatives replaced Cameron with Theresa May.

May engaged in a policy to take the country out of the European Union with her flagship Brexit withdrawal agreement. With this deal having failed in the House of Commons three times, May resigned. A Conservative leadership election ensued, which Boris Johnson won. On the 24th July 2019, Johnson was appointed Prime Minister.