The German People's Experience in 1945
THE BRITISH 57
THE BRITISH Britain as Victor Poor but with the Best Conscience Great Britain moved swiftly from Churchill and Glory to Attlee, and Austerity. The Coalition of Conservative and Labour, which had brought the country from the brink of defeat in 1940, developed intolerable strains as victory approached. Churchill, who had dominated the conduct of the war and foreign policy, had been willing to pay any price to defeat Hitler. Some historians, con- fronted with the weakness of Britain after Churchill, have come to blame his ex- tremely vigorous conduct of the war for the country's exhaustion. Britain paid the price for "Its Finest Hour" by being Great no longer. Still confident in his power, he had promised in October, 1944, to hold the fateful election soon after the defeat of Germany. Then he did not campaign effectively. His election call "to leave these socialist dreamers to their Utopias or nightmares" failed to move people as had the great speeches of 1940. The Labour Party machinery was in much better shape. Its core was in the trade unions, and many organizers, because of their importance to war production had not been called up. More importantly, his Tories were identified with the Dole- ful Depression, its hunger marches, its slums and millions of unemployed. The country wanted a long-delayed social justice, and although Churchill ig- nored reform, his government had already taken the first steps. It had paved the way to the Welfare State by sponsoring the Beveridge Report on the extension...
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