This document is the Labour Party’s manifesto for the 1945 General Election. It was the product of extensive discussions within the party and beyond on Britain’s post-war future. At the time of the publication, Germany had been defeated but Britain was still at war with Japan. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were still in the future.
Labour withdrew from the wartime coalition to fight the election: Attlee had been deputy prime minister; Morrison had been Home Secretary; Bevin had been Minister of Labour, so leading Labour MPs had had extensive experience of government. Morrison had overall responsibility for the preparation of the manifesto, which was drafted by Michael Young who was Labour party head of research, having before the war directed the Political and Economic Planning think tank. Young later helped found the Open University, the Consumers’ Association and the Institute for Community Studies, later becoming Lord Young of Dartington and a founder of the Social Democratic Party’s Tawney Society. Young also published in 1947 Labour’s Plan for Plenty, just as budget cuts were beginning to bite. Young also wrote a series of discussion papers for the Labour Party, including Small Man; Big World, a critique of a centralised welfare state, and For Richer, for Poorer on socialist values in a consumerist society.
The best study of wartime domestic policy-making is Paul Addison’s 1997 study, The Road to 1945. Stephen Brooke’s 1992 book on Labour’s War is also useful on the party’s wartime policy development. There is also a biography of Young by Asa Briggs. Young commented on his initial draft of the manifesto: “It is neither necessary or desirable for the document to be too long, too detailed, or to get much beyond what can be done in the full lifetime of a single Parliament… We require a document that is both broad and clear – constituting a straight challenge from the Left – and which will strike the average elector as good sense.”
“Britain’s coming Election will be the greatest test in our history of the judgment and common sense of our people. The nation wants food, work and homes. It wants more than that – it wants good food in plenty; useful work for all, and comfortable, labour-saving homes that take full advantage of the resources of modern science and productive industry. It wants a high and rising standard of living, security for all against a rainy day, an educational system which will give every boy and girl a chance to develop the best that is in them.
“The Labour Party stands for freedom – for freedom of worship, freedom of speech, freedom of the Press. The Labour Party will see to it that we keep and enlarge these freedoms, and that we enjoy again the personal civil liberties we have, of our own free will, sacrificed to win the war. The freedom of Trade Unions must also be restored. But there are certain so-called freedoms that Labour will not tolerate: freedom to exploit other people; freedom to pay poor wages and to push up prices for selfish profit; freedom to deprive the people of the means of living full, happy, healthy lives.
“All parties say so – the Labour Party means it. For the Labour Party is prepared to achieve it by drastic policies of replanning and by keeping a firm constructive hand on our whole productive machinery; the Labour Party will put the community first and the sectional interests of private business after. Labour will plan from the ground up – giving an appropriate place to constructive enterprise and private endeavour in the national plan, but dealing decisively with those interests which would use high-sounding talk about economic freedom to cloak their determination to put themselves and their wishes above those of the whole nation.
“We appeal to all men and women of progressive outlook, and who believe in constructive change, to support the Labour Party.”