Britain in the 1950s is often associated with a sense of national well-being, in which sporting achievement played a key role. In the words of the election expert David Butler, writing in the mid-1950s, ‘Everest had been conquered, an Englishman [Roger Bannister] had been the first to run the four-minute mile, and England had regained, and then held, the Ashes’.1 As wartime rationing finally came to an end, the stirrings of an ‘affluent society’ — with many enjoying the benefits of consumerism for the first time — helped to underpin a period of Conservative domination of politics, reflected in three consecutive general election victories, each more emphatic than the previous one. Winston Churchill secured a narrow win by 17 seats in 1951, and improving world trade conditions meant he could retire and hand over to Anthony Eden in 1955 confident of electoral success; the government’s majority duly increased to 59 seats. Eden’s premiership proved short-lived, and he left office under a cloud early in 1957 after his handling of the Suez Crisis, but his successor Harold Macmillan engineered a renewed consumer boom. Voters were sufficiently persuaded by Macmillan’s ‘never had it so good’ message that the Tories triumphed with a resounding majority of 100 seats at the 1959 election.
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