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British Labor's Half-Way House:
The Socialist Government Faces the Electorate

- Abstract

In deciding not to hold a general election during 1949, the Labor government has defied the combined pressure of the Conservative opposition, the Liberals, and its own left wing, all of whom, though for different reasons, had been pressing for an early appeal to the electorate. It also (or so it is believed) disproved the confidential forecasts made to the State Department by the United States Embassy here, which is rather apt to reflect Tory opinion and in any case has no great faith in the political strength of Clement Attlee and his colleagues. Even more important, the Labor government gave itself time to complete its 1945 election program and to initiate the first “crisis measures.”

Completion of Labor’s election program involves the final legislative acts required to nationalize the steel industry and to curtail the powers of the House of Lords. However, insofar as the present final session of the LONDON 1945 Parliament is concerned with the crisis arising from the balance-of-payments problem, it can legitimately be said to be doing work that any legislative assembly—whether controlled by the Conservative or Labor party—would have to do. There are differences in emphasis: a Tory government would probably cut expenditure on education before pruning the military estimates, rather than the other way around, and it is unlikely that a Conservative chancellor would have stiffened the profits tax. But by and large, the leadership of the two parties are a good deal closer together than their respective followers, many of whom still hold the simple belief that “the crisis” can best be met by the full-blooded application of some favored political nostrum.

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