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Welsh History Review


Vol. 16, nos. 1-4 1992-93

The Churchill coalition and wartime politics, 1940-1945. Book review.

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underestimate the influence of permanent officials such as Sir Edward Troup. His
memorandum in Ocober 1911 argued that if at any future time a state of things
should arise affecting the maintenance of order throughout the United Kingdom, it is
clear that the assistance to be given to the magistrates and the police must be organised
under the direction and control of central government'. Pre-war Liberal governments
may not have implemented the tactics this foreshadowed, but they had certainly
achieved a position where they were ready to use them as occasion arose.
Worcester College
Manchester University Press, 1991. Pp. 242. £ 29.95.
This is the first extended study of wartime politics to appear since Paul Addison's
classic, The Road to 1945, in 1975. Addison asserted that the war created a new
middle ground upon which the major political parties would thereafter compete for
political power. In contrast to the negative antagonisms of the 1930s, there now
emerged between Conservatives and Labour a definite 'consensus', a common
approach to social policy. In 1945, in Addison's memorable phrase, this new
consensus 'fell like a branch of ripe plums, into the lap of Mr. Attlee'.
This thesis has remained remarkably resilient, even during the decidedly un-
consensual 1980s. However, The Road to 1945 had itself, despite its general
conclusion, included evidence of disagreements between coalition ministers over
issues such as the Beveridge Report. In recent years Addison's conclusions have been
questioned by both Jose Harris and Ben Pimlott, while Kenneth Morgan's
authoritative study of the post-war Labour government demonstrated that Attlee and
his colleagues frequently went beyond what had been agreed with their coalition
partners before 1945. However, it is only now that Kevin Jefferys has provided an
extended and detailed challenge to Addison's model of political development in the
years 1939-45. Jefferys convincingly demonstrates that the war did not see the
emergence of a new consensus between the political parties. Rather, these years were
characterized by continued disagreements: over economic policy in 1940-41, over war
strategy during 1942, and over reconstruction after 1942. Apart from the 1944
Education Act and family allowances, no major social legislation actually reached the
statute book before the end of the war, while wartime white papers were sufficiently
ambiguous to allow for very different interpretations by opposing political leaders.
This, and the fact that most Conservative MPs remained unsympathetic, if not hostile,
towards a dramatic extension of social reform, became all too apparent in the 1945
election campaign,
Jefferys is to be commended for breathing some much-needed fire back into the
Political history of the 1940s. He shows that Neville Chamberlain's fall in 1940 left a
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