The 1940s was arguably the one decade in British political history when governments achieved what they set out to do. 1940 saw Chamberlain replaced by Churchill, who was able to harness the best minds of the Conservatives, Liberals and Labour in an all-party coalition, which won the war. The wartime coalition also made extensive plans for post-war reconstruction and published the Beveridge Report.
In 1945 Clement Attlee led the Labour Party to a landslide victory. His 1945-50 government has many long-lasting achievements to its name, including the National Health Service, National Parks, Town and Country Planning, Indian Independence and the New Towns.
Few would argue that Attlee’s achievements in the 1940s were not dramatic and enduring. What is less well-remembered is that Attlee also won the election in 1950. Today is the anniversary of that election. Labour won 315 seats, the Conservatives 298 and the Liberals 9 of the remaining 12. It was the first election with one person-one vote, as the university seats and the business premises votes had been abolished.
However, despite the narrow victory, the turn of the decade marked the end of major reforms. Attlee’s second administration limped on for only 20 relatively undistinguished months before succumbing at the election in 1951, which saw Churchill’s first election victory.
Attlee is rightly remembered for his highly-regarded 1945-50 government, but it is largely forgotten that he did win a second election - on this day in 1950. His second victory added very little to his reputation, but it meant that Attlee actually won two elections before Churchill won any – and Churchill only ever won one.