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The british prime minister gordon brown and the economy of britain

Margaret Thatcher Conservative, 1979 - 1990 Britain's first female prime minister came to power with the country descending into industrial and economic chaos. A relatively inexperienced politician, she nonetheless adopted a personal style of indomitable self-confidence and brooked no weakness in herself or her colleagues. Derisively dubbed the 'Iron Lady' by the Soviet press, she wore the moniker with pride.

The first PM to serve three consecutive terms including two 'landslide' victories she was eventually toppled by her own party following the disastrous imposition of a 'poll tax'. Nonetheless, she is generally considered to be one of the best peace time prime ministers of the 20th Century. James Callaghan Labour, 1976 - 1979 Callaghan inherited the office of prime minister following the surprise resignation of Harold Wilson.

With only a tiny parliamentary majority to support him, he faced an increasingly one-sided confrontation with organised labour in the form of rampant strike action. Things came to a head in the so-called 'Winter of Discontent', a phrase from Shakespeare borrowed by Callaghan himself to describe the events leading up to February 1979. Britain was 'strikebound', with public servants staging mass walk outs, leaving food and fuel supplies undelivered, rubbish uncollected and - most notoriously - bodies unburied.

Things became so bad in Hull it was dubbed 'the second Stalingrad'. The tabloid press has since been accused of overstating the severity of the situation and wrongly quoting him as saying 'Crisis? Harold Wilson Labour, 1974 - 1976 In March 1974, Wilson became prime minister for the third time at the head of a minority government, following the first hung parliament one where no party holds a majority for 45 years.

Often described as a wily fixer and negotiator, it took all of his skills to hold on to power in the face of economic and industrial turmoil. His party was also sharply divided, with many Labour members of parliament MPs bitter about Wilson's manoeuvring against his colleagues. He called another general election in October 1974, thereby ending the shortest parliament since 1681, and was returned to office with a majority of just three seats.

Exhausted, Wilson resigned saying 'politicians should not go on and on'. But his government was dogged by torrid industrial relations and recurrent economic crises. Things came to a head in January 1974, when industry was put on a 'three-day week' to conserve fuel. Fuel was in dangerously short supply following a combination of domestic industrial action coal miners on 'work-to-rule' and a quadrupling of prices by Middle Eastern oil exporting nations in the wake of Israel's victory in the Yom Kippur War.

In March 1974, Heath called a general election on the question of 'who governs Britain? To his surprise the result was a hung parliament one where no party holds a majority and he was ousted.

Harold Wilson Labour, 1964 - 1970 In 1964, 'Good old Mr Wilson' - an avuncular, pipe-smoking figure - came to power amid much excitement and optimism. He had promised a 'new Britain' forged in 'the white heat of a second industrial revolution'.

In reality, his administration never escaped from a cycle of economic crises, vainly battling against further devaluations of the pound. Wilson won a second general election in 1966 the year England lifted the football World Cup making him the british prime minister gordon brown and the economy of britain first Labour PM to serve consecutive terms.

In 1967, the government failed in its application for membership of the European Economic Community EEC and was also finally forced to devalue sterling.

The electorate became disillusioned with Wilson, who lost narrowly to the Conservatives in the 1970 election. Sir Alec Douglas-Home, Conservative, 1963 - 1964 In 1963, a change in the law allowed hereditary peers to disclaim or 'drop' their titles, which in turn meant they were able to become members of parliament MPs.

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The only peer ever to do so and become prime minister was Douglas-Home, formerly the 14th Earl of Home, who assumed the office when Harold Macmillan retired due to ill health. He was the first prime minister in the post-war period not to win his own mandate be elected or re-elected by popular vote.

Harold Macmillan, Conservative, 1957 - 1963 Macmillan came to power at a time when Britain was confronting its loss of world-power status and facing mounting economic troubles.

Nonetheless, he successfully associated the Conservatives with a new age of affluence and the burgeoning consumer revolution. But his oft-quoted assurance 'You've never had it so good' actually finishes 'What is beginning to worry some of us is, is it too good to be true? His government is principally remembered for the so-called 'Profumo Affair', a sex scandal that erupted in 1963 and contributed to the Conservatives' defeat at the general election the following year.

After lying to the House of Commons, Profumo admitted the truth in June 1963 and resigned in disgrace. Macmillan resigned due to ill health in October the same year.

Many years before, Churchill had anointed Eden as his successor, but later acknowledged he had made 'a great mistake'. His opinion was born out as the new PM blundered into the Suez Crisis.

  • He immediately struck up an excellent rapport with Queen Victoria, who approved of his imperialist ambitions and his belief that Britain should be the most powerful nation in the world;
  • Scandalously, he lived with his mistress and illegitimate daughter in London while his wife and other children lived in Wales;
  • Marquess of Salisbury, 1895 - 1902, Conservative Salisbury came to power for the third and final time when the weak Liberal government of the Earl of Rosebery fell;
  • His reports publicised the squalor and disease that were claiming more soldiers' lives than the fighting, and inspired Florence Nightingale to volunteer and take the first 38 nurses out to treat the wounded;
  • Having accepted, he would often refuse to allow his cabinet colleagues to leave the room, insisting 'I'm damned if I know what we agreed on.

Following Egypt's decision to nationalise the Suez canal, Britain the principal shareholderFrance and Israel invaded in October 1956 to near-universal condemnation and the threat of nuclear strikes by the Soviet Union.

Within a week, Britain was forced into an embarrassing climb-down. Humiliated and in ill-health, Eden left the country for a holiday at the Jamaican home of James Bond author, Ian Fleming. He returned in mid-December to the sarcastic newspaper headline: He resigned on 9 January 1957. Sir Winston Churchill, Conservative, 1951 - 1955 Churchill's desire to return to power, despite his assured place in history, had much to do with his belligerent refusal to accept that the British public had rejected him in 1945.

Now the electorate was seeking to put behind it the hardships and privations of the post-war years under Clement Atlee and return to a more traditional idea of society - so-called 'housing and red meat' issues.

Churchill tried - and failed - to recreate the dynamism of his wartime administration, and he struggled to adjust to the political realities of the Cold War, preferring direct action and personal diplomacy to proxy wars and cabinet consensus. His refusal to retire, despite suffering a stroke, caused mounting frustrations among his colleagues. At the age of 80, he finally conceded to his failing health and stepped down, although he continued to serve as an MP.

Clement Attlee, Labour, 1945 - 1951 World War Two had sharply exposed the imbalances in Britain's social, economic and political structures. For a population that had sacrificed so much, a return to the pre-war status quo was simply not an option. In 1942, a report by Sir William Beveridge, chairman of a Ministry of Health committee, had advocated a system of national insurance, comprehensive welfare for all and strategies to maintain full employment.

The 'Beveridge Report' formed the basis of Labour pledges in the 1945 election and resulted in a landslide victory. Attlee's government successfully harnessed the wartime sense of unity to create the National Health Service, a national insurance scheme, a huge programme of nationalisation including the Bank of England and most heavy industries and a massive building programme. He also made Britain a nuclear-armed power. These sweeping reforms resulted in a parliamentary consensus on key social and economic policies that would last until 1979.

But by 1951, a row over plans to charge for spectacles and false teeth had split the cabinet.

  • His party was also sharply divided, with many Labour members of parliament MPs bitter about Wilson's manoeuvring against his colleagues;
  • He also made Britain a nuclear-armed power;
  • He became such an advocate that he even fought a duel with the 10th Earl of Winchilsea over the issue;
  • Earl of Rosebery, Liberal, 1894 - 1895 Rosebury reluctantly became prime minister on the insistence of Queen Victoria, despite still mourning the loss of his wife;
  • This is the last recorded direct political intervention by a British monarch;
  • He was the first prime minister in the post-war period not to win his own mandate be elected or re-elected by popular vote.

Party disunity and a struggling economy contributed to Attlee - cruelly dubbed by Churchill 'a modest man with much to be modest about' - losing the next election. Winston Churchill, Conservative, 1940 - 1945 By the time Churchill was asked to lead the coalition government in 1940, he had already enjoyed colourful and controversial careers as a journalist, soldier and politician.

He had twice 'crossed the floor' of the House of Commons, the first time defecting from Conservative to Liberal and serving as First Lord of the Admiralty during the early years of World War One. Demoted in the wake of the slaughter at Gallipoli, he preferred to resign and take up a commission fighting on the Western Front.

Despite standing against the Conservatives in a 1924 by-election, Churchill was welcomed back into the party that same year and served as Chancellor of the Exchequer for five years under Stanley Baldwin. But personal disagreements and his vehement anti-Fascism would lead to nearly a decade in the political wilderness.

Following Neville Chamberlain's resignation in 1940, Churchill finally realised his 'destiny' and accepted the office of prime minister.

Promising nothing more than 'blood, toil, tears and sweat', he almost single-handedly restored Britain's desire to fight on in adversity. Despite Churchill's enormous personal popularity, by 1945 the electorate no longer wanted a war leader and the Conservatives lost by a landslide.

  1. He had twice 'crossed the floor' of the House of Commons, the first time defecting from Conservative to Liberal and serving as First Lord of the Admiralty during the early years of World War One.
  2. Disraeli suffered a nervous breakdown as a result, but eventually paid off his creditors by marrying a rich widow, Mary Anne Wyndam Lewis, in 1839. The Prince of Wales had reputedly once intervened to prevent him from being horsewhipped by the Marquess of Queensbury, with whose son Rosebery was believed to be having an affair.
  3. He immediately struck up an excellent rapport with Queen Victoria, who approved of his imperialist ambitions and his belief that Britain should be the most powerful nation in the world.

Neville Chamberlain, Conservative, 1937 - 1940 Rarely has the hyperbole of politicians been as resoundingly exposed as when Neville Chamberlain returned from his 1938 negotiations with Adolf Hitler, brandishing his famous 'piece of paper' and declaring the agreement it represented to be 'peace for our time'.

With his policy of 'appeasement' towards Hitler utterly bankrupted, Chamberlain resigned in 1940. He was replaced by Winston Churchill. When the issue of honours was discussed, he stated that he wanted to die 'plain Mr Chamberlain, like my father'.

His father, Joseph Chamberlain, was the politician who split the Conservatives in 1903 by pushing for tariffs on imported goods. It was this very issue that convinced Churchill to defect to the Liberals, with whom he first achieved high office. Chamberlain died six months after resigning. Stanley Baldwin, Conservative, 1935 - 1937 When Baldwin returned to power in 1935, the financial crisis sparked by the Wall Street Crash six years before appeared to be over.

Baldwin advised Edward that Mrs Simpson would not be accepted as Queen by the public, and that the king could not condone divorce as head of the Church of England. The king proposed a 'morganatic' marriage, whereby Mrs Simpson would become his consort, but not Queen.

The government rejected the idea and threatened to resign if the king forced the issue. The story then broke in the press, to general disapproval by the public. Rather than break the engagement, Edward abdicated on 11 December 1936. Credited with saving the monarchy, Baldwin is also condemned for failing to begin re-arming when it became clear that Nazi Germany was building up its armed forces. Ramsay MacDonald, Labour, 1929 - 1935 MacDonald began his second term at the head of a minority government one that does not have an outright majority and with the economy in deep crisis.

Britain was still in the grip of the Great Depression and unemployment soon soared to two million.

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With fewer people able to pay tax, revenues had fallen as demand for unemployment benefits had soared. Unable to meet the deficit, by 1931 it was being proposed that benefits and salaries should be cut. Labour ministers rejected the plan as running counter to their core beliefs. MacDonald went to the king, George V, to proffer his resignation.

  1. Heartsick, utterly exhausted, penniless and unmarried, Pitt died on 23 January 1806 at the age of 46.
  2. In an era when politicians' private lives were very private, his embarrassed colleagues nonetheless felt it necessary to explain his behaviour as 'rescue work' to save 'fallen women'. Earl of Derby, Conservative, 1866 - 1868 The introduction of the 1867 Reform Act made Derby's third term as prime minister a major step in the true democratisation of Britain.
  3. Defeated on a separate issue, Peel resigned the same day, but was cheered by crowds as he left the Commons. As hostilities progressed, North's blundering and indecision worsened an already difficult situation, and by 1782 it was clear that the outcome was likely to be a disaster.

George suggested MacDonald to try and form a 'national government' or coalition of all the parties. This is the last recorded direct political intervention by a British monarch.

The National Government was formed, with MacDonald as prime minister, but Stanley Baldwin, leader of the Conservative Party, the de facto 'power behind the throne'. MacDonald is still considered by many in the Labour Party as their worst political traitor.

Stanley Baldwin, Conservative, 1924 - 1929 In May 1926, the Trades Union Congress called for a general walkout in support of a coal miners' protest against threatened wage cuts.

  • But his government was dogged by torrid industrial relations and recurrent economic crises;
  • Parliament was dissolved and the general election was fought on the single issue of the Reform Act - an unprecedented event in British political history;
  • Sir Winston Churchill, Conservative, 1951 - 1955 Churchill's desire to return to power, despite his assured place in history, had much to do with his belligerent refusal to accept that the British public had rejected him in 1945;
  • In 1835, he was forced to apologise in court after being accused of bribing voters in Maidstone;
  • Liverpool became PM at a time when Britain was emerging from the Napoleonic Wars and the first rumblings of 'working class' unrest were just beginning to be felt.

It was the first and, to date, only general strike in British history. The strike affected key industries, such as gas, electricity and the railways, but ended after just nine days due to lack of public backing and well-organised emergency measures by Baldwin's government.

Far from succeeding in its aims, the General Strike actually led to a decline in trade union membership and the miners ended up accepting longer hours and less pay.

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It also gave impetus to the 1927 Trade Disputes Act, which curtailed workers' ability to take industrial action. Baldwin's government also extended the vote to women over 21 and passed the Pensions Act, but eventually fell as a result of the Wall Street Crash of 1929, and the Depression that followed.

It was the first party to gain power with the express purpose of representing the voice of the 'working class'. An MP since 1906, MacDonald was respected as a thinker, but criticised by many within his own party as insufficiently radical despite appointing the first female cabinet minister, Margaret Bondfield, in 1929.

His opposition to World War One had made him deeply unpopular and he continually suffered a torrid time at the hands of the press. The publication by two newspapers of the 'Zinoviev letter' did much to damage his chances in the run up to the 1924 election.