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'Butskellism' is the (moderately satirical) term used in British politics to refer to the political consensus formed in the 1950s and associated with the exercise of office as Chancellor of the Exchequer by Rab Butler of the Conservative Party and Hugh Gaitskell of the Labour Party. The term was inspired by a leading article in The Economist which dramatised the claimed convergence by referring to a fictitious Mr Butskell.[1]

World War II left the United Kingdom with an appetite for a broader distribution of wealth and a strengthening of social security, while more conservative instincts held fast to a belief in individual initiative and private property.[2] The practical resolution of this tension in politics by the two Chancellors was a Keynesian mixed economy with moderate state intervention to promote social goals, particularly in education and health.

The consensus dominated British politics until the economic crises of the 1970s which led to the end of the Golden Age of Capitalism and the rise of monetarist economics. The Conservative administration of Margaret Thatcher institutionalised a greater emphasis on a free market approach to government.

However, the idea of Butskellism has been challenged as a myth, with claims that there was in fact a sustained argument over the use of physical controls, monetary policy and direct taxation.[3]

A similar term 'Blatcherism' was coined to describe the supposed convergence of policies of the administrations of Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair.[4]

See also


  1. ^ The Economist, February 1954
  2. ^ Kynaston (2007) pp467-469
  3. ^ Kelly (2002)
  4. ^ Kingdom, John (2003). Government and Politics in Britain: An introduction (third ed.). Polity Press. p. 301. ISBN 0745625940.  


  • Kelly, S. (2002). The Myth of Mr.Butskell: The Politics of British Economic Policy, 1950-55. London: Ashgate. ISBN 075460604X.  
  • Kynaston, D (2007). Austerity Britain: 1945-1951. London: Bloomsbury. ISBN 0-7475-7985-4.  


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