How did a Conservative Chancellor deliver 7% growth after the 1930s Depression? (ConHome)

George Tregarne, CPS Expert and author of Metroboom writes for Conservative Home and discusses the relevance and comparisons that can be made from Britain’s economy in the 1930s and now.

“As George Osborne and his Treasury team finalise the Budget, their ears ringing with the appeals of all and sundry about what to do, they could do worse than consider the last time that Britain was caught up in a global financial crisis, when we led the world to recovery: the 1930s.

Misconceptions about the Thirties abound and it is surprising how many stick their fingers in their ears if you try and explain that actually, the British economy was booming by the middle of that decade, and it is time we asked how it was achieved.

By 1935, the economy was expanding at 7%. New industries like car and aircraft production, manmade fibres and consumer goods took off. Most strikingly, some 2.8m new homes were built, for this was the period when Britain became a home-owning democracy. There was not only amazing technical innovation, it was a culturally buoyant time too, both in modern architecture and for reflective British artists like Ravillious, Bawden, Nicholson and Hepworth.

Perhaps the biggest prejudice one has to discard is that the architect of this recovery was a politician who has since become reviled for his role in appeasement: the then Chancellor, Neville Chamberlain. He bestrode the era like a colossus and his successful political and economic strategy led to two of the biggest ever Conservative landslides, in 1931 and 1935. True, there was a coalition, or National Government, but the Conservatives had a large majority on their own and chose to govern with other parties at the behest of the King and in the national interest.

Whatever his subsequent failings as a Prime Minister, Chamberlain was for six years a great reforming chancellor, perhaps as great as Gladstone or Nigel Lawson. He was also a skilful politician, who invented the Budget broadcast on radio and in the cinema, reduced the length of Budget speeches and even featured on the front page of Time magazine in America.”

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Date Added: Monday 19th March 2012