Conservative Government 1951–1957

Conservative Government 1951–1957

The Conservative Party came to power in the United Kingdom after victory in the 1951 general election. This was the first purely Conservative government since Stanley Baldwin's 1924-1929 administration. Winston Churchill became Prime Minister for a second time. Despite suffering a stroke in 1953, he remained as head of the government until April 1955, when, aged 80, he resigned. He was succeeded by his ambitious protegé, Sir Anthony Eden (who had up until then served as Foreign Secretary), who finally reached the post he had covented for so long, although his administration was to last for less than two years. The Churchill-Eden administrations saw several prominent figures and up-and-coming stars. Rab Butler was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer, a post he held until December 1955, when Eden (with whom he did not get along) demoted him to Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons. The noted Scottish lawyer Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, who had gained fame as a prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, became Home Secretary. He remained in this post until 1954, when he was ennobled as Viscount Kilmuir and appointed Lord Chancellor. Future Prime Minister Harold Macmillan achieved his first major post when he was made Minister of Defence in 1954. He was promoted to Foreign Secretary by Eden in April 1955, but only held this post until December of the same year, when he replaced Butler as Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Selwyn Lloyd gained his first cabinet post when he succeeded Macmillan as Minister of Defence in April 1955, and again replaced Macmillan as Foreign Secretary in December of that year. Another future Prime Minister, the Earl of Home, entered the cabinet as Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations in 1955. Gwilym Lloyd George, younger son of former Liberal leader David Lloyd George, replaced Sir David Maxwell Fyfe as Home Secretary in 1954. Florence Horsbrugh became the first woman to hold a cabinet post in a Conservative administration when she was appointed Minister of Education in 1951. Several figures who were later to achieve high offices held their first governmental posts. These included future Prime Minister Edward Heath, future Chancellors Reginald Maudling, Peter Thorneycroft and Iain Macleod, future Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington and future Lord Chancellor Lord Hailsham. Other notably figures in the government were John Profumo, Bill Deedes, Enoch Powell, David Ormsby-Gore and the Marquess of Salisbury.

The Churchill and Eden administrations were mainly concerned with international affairs, the widening Cold War and decolonialization (especially the Mau Mau Uprising and the Malayan Emergency). Eden's decision to take military action over the Suez Crisis of 1956 caused major embarrassment for Britain and their French allies. Eden, then already in declining health, resigned as Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party in January 1957. Harold Macmillan was chosen over Rab Butler to succeeded as party leader and Prime Minister.

Members of the Cabinet are in bold face.


*cite book | author= | title=Twentieth Century British Political Facts 1900-2000 | publisher= | year= | editor=D. Butler and G. Butler

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