British policies that have taken place since the end of the Second World War

Last Updated: 10 Aug 2020
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In this essay I am going to be looking at British policies that have taken place since the end of the Second World War. The government have used a mixture of private and public welfare up until today; I am going to be looking into what ideologies influence the policies that have been put into place. Also throughout the essay I will explain how ideologies and policies have an effect on certain social groups in society. The term ideology is the ideas and beliefs of an individual or a group about how the world should be.

There are lots of different political ideologies; the main two I will be looking into are Liberalism and social reformism. However both of these ideologies overlap with Marxist and conservative views which I will look at broadly. The first ideology I am going to look at is Social reformism also known as social democracy. This emerged from the late 1800’s and was set up from the trade unions and non conformist churches such as Methodist in Britain. This ideology has very strong values in helping and supporting people who are worse off than their selves.

They believe that the government has a duty to look after the worse off in society, and they try to do this through the welfare state. They believe that democratic change is the way forward to succeeding in society, this usually means voting will be used to determine what changes are made. Social reformism believes that the government should interfere with the running of society and that the large industries should all is state owned. Another one of their ideas is for everyone to have equal opportunities, also a part of this is the belief that if you have a big income that you should be taxed according to this.

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This means that the rich will be getting taxed more than the poor which will mean the money will be put into the state to help the worse off, to help everyone become more equal and have equal chances in life. The second ideology I am going to look at is Liberalism which is the philosophy of john Locke, Adam smith and John Stuart Mill. This ideology mainly started in the 1600’s as a movement against the power of the monarchy however became more dominant in the 1800’s. The Liberalists stand for freedom and protection of people’s rights and equality between everyone.

Liberalists believe that the government should have none or very little involvement with the running of society. This includes limiting the state owned businesses and government powers over industries. From a economics point of view Liberalism believes that we should have a free market and free enterprise over the world. They encourage free trade so much in order to move forward towards being a more successful capitalist society. Liberalism does not want the state involved in the economy ect, as they believe it works best without any political input from the government.

However as the liberalists believe in the protection of human rights they accept input in policing, courts, and the military as these are provided to protect individuals. The next ideology I’m going to look briefly at is Marxism also known as socialism. Marxism was first introduced by Karl Marx who believed in having a classless society in the 1600’s. Marxists believed that there were two main groups who were relevant in making the economic system worked. He called them the Bourgeoisie who are the owners of industry, and the proletariat who are the working class.

The Marxist idea is that the owners of industry exploit the working class to make as much profit out of them as possible. The Marxists notice this and have a view that a revolution should take place which would let the working class rise against the ruling class. Marxists believed that the state should be fully involved in society such as owning industries, and have control over health care, housing and a good welfare system to ensure everyone has equal opportunities at having a good life and a good standard of living.

The last ideology that was mainly used was conservatism which emerged at the time of the French revolution 1789. Conservatism has a very traditional approach and believes in maintaining the status quo or having very little slow change. This ideology believes that the class system in our society works. They believe that having an upper class, middle class and working class is a functional way to live. They believe that we should be able to help the poor but not too much that they get dependent on societies input into helping them.

In 1939 was the beginning of World War 2, where Britain took place in one of the toughest wars known to history. The war affected everyone in the country as individuals, businesses and families. Neville Chamberlain was the Prime minister of Britain at the beginning of World War 2, however in 1940 Chamberlain decided to resign and Winston Churchill became Prime Minister. Post war governments throughout 1945-1975 steered the economy and all the political parties to continue and to further support the welfare state.

This time is also known as the kaynesian and Beveridgian period. William Beveridge was a social reformist who was asked to carry out a a report which was released in 1942. He believed that the government should pay to provide basic welfare, and take responsibility for helping the unemployed and people in poverty. In his report he said that the government should be able to tackle the “5 evil giants” Which are Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness. The Beveridge report is such an important part of history because the Beveridge report helped produce the welfare state.

Kaynes was an economist which argued that in times of recessions the government should invest into the economic system to help create jobs for people. This would be a good idea because as people now have jobs they will then be able to pay their money slowly back into the economy. However when the economy is booming the government should be able to have the power to be able to slow down the economy by introducing more taxes, this is so people don’t demand more goods as this may lead to inflation. Around the time just after the war there were a lot of social reformist approaches.

Firstly The National Health Service Act (1948) was introduced. This act was established to give people a right to a free health service and free medical treatment for everyone. However when this Act was first mentioned GP’s were not fond of the idea and didn’t want to join. However this Act has affected many people throughout Britain For years such as Working Class Families. This Act has given them the opportunity to have free health care where as they may not have been able to afford medical treatment before which means we as a country are saving more lives through the NHS.

The next Act i am going to look at is the National Insurance Act (1946). At this stage when the Act was first introduced everyone had to pay into it (employer, employee, and the government) which entitles you to sick pay and a pension. The next Act was the Children’s Act (1948), this gave the government responsibilities for looking after children in Britain and having the main power for the Childs Protection . Throughout 1946-1948 housing Acts were also introduced to help people get a better living standard. Between 1950-1975 we currently had nationalised industries.

This meant that the government owned most of the large industries such as Coal, gas and electric. Within this time period the government also decided to get rid of the Grammar schools which meant also scrapping the 11+ exam and introduce comprehensive schools, which was also a social reformist idea. However they did decide not to abolish private schools which meant this also had a sense of a conservative approach. This is because keeping the private schools is only keeping the class difference the same of if anything making the gap larger.

In the late 1970’s family income support was introduced. This policy was pretty much the same as working tax credits however this meant that your income was supplemented to a good living standard. This was introduced to try and not let people get into the poverty cycle, people went through a means testing processes which the government believed was done very fairly and reached out to help a lot more people who were struggling or maybe not entitled to the original benefit.

From 1979-1997 lots of changes were being made to society when the conservatives where in power. Margret Thatcher a conservative, re introduced a Liberalist approach into society. Even though Thatcher stood for the conservative party she introduced a lot of Liberalist ideas into the policies between 1979 and 1997. This idea of a new liberalist approach was known as The New Right. Thatcher believed that the state was being used too much and was too involved in people’s lives.

This era is known as the welfare break up, as Margret Thatcher was very Anti welfare state and in favour for lowering the income tax. Thatcher decided to start De nationalising industries because she believed they were inefficient and there were way too many people employed. The railway, coal, BT and parts of the NHS were a few industries which where effected who were put into the hands of the private sector rather than the government meaning a lot of people loosing their jobs which is also a Liberalist approach.

At this time the conservatives also tried to cut the welfare benefits; however did not successes with this due to the government worrying about riots because unemployment was at its highest at 4million which would leave a lot of people fending for them selves. However slight changes were made to the welfare system where they cut 16-18 year olds being able to get welfare benefits. This was because they wanted too push teenagers to go and get a job or go into education, this is where the government intruded the youth training system to help young people.

In 1997 Labour won the election by a landslide victory making Tony Blaire MP. In the 1980’s before Labour were elected socialists argued with social reformists within the labour party. This made some of the MP’s leave the labour party who chose to create a social democrat party, which has now formed into the Liberal democrat party. He also decided to change the name to ‘New Labour’ as apposed to ‘Old Labour’ as they had removed some of their socialist ideology. They came up with an idea of a ‘third way approach’, this meant that they were able to take bits of ideologies and put them together to win votes.

One example of this is labour not changing some of the privatisation of the NHS which would win over voters from more of a conservative background. Through 1997-2010 there were lots of policies introduced by the Labour government. Some of the policies took a very Liberalist approach and some took a Social reformism approach. I am firstly going to look at the policies which were introduced by social reformism under Labour government. The first Policy i am going to look at is the National Minimum wage. This was introduced so that people were able to only sell their labour for a good standard amount of money.

This is also to helps people (especially working class) not to fall into poverty as they will be guaranteed a ‘liveable’ wage. The minimum wage has changed since it was first brought in, as the minimum wage now stands at ?6. 08 for workers over the age of 21. Also to be re introduced was Working family tax credits, which Labour increased the amount of money people where able to get to supplement their income which reached out to working class families to help them have a better standard of living. The government were also very fond of trying to tackle child poverty.

They did this by injecting money in to schools in low income areas to help the children get a better education in that area, and also supplying children with after school clubs and breakfast clubs to help families struggling financially. Another major policy brought in by Labour is Job seekers allowance. This was introduced to help people get back into work and to support them financially whilst doing so. Most of these policies introduced by social reformism under Labour government are there to help families with low income living in low income areas.

Labour also had policies which were introduced by Liberalism. Firstly Labour continued to slowly de nationalise industries and introduce agencies to run the government department. Therefore this Liberalist view is mostly advantaging the Upper/middle class. This is because if Labour are still privatising parts of the welfare state for example social care the working class are going to be unable to pay for these services due to low income. Gordon Brown was elected for Labour in 2007 where Britain fell into a economical crisis.

He then went to nationalise the banks which meant the government had to buy shares or all parts of the banks to ensure they didn’t go under, which is a socialist idea. In 2010 the Coalition government came into power which consisted of the Liberal democrats and Conservatives. There aims for Britain are to be able to reduce government spending by cutting back on the welfare, education and local government services which is based on Liberalist Ideology. Up to the present day to day Britain is still struggling to get back on its feet after the recession however things are improving.

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British policies that have taken place since the end of the Second World War. (2017, Aug 22). Retrieved from

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