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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 by Norman Macrae which dramatised the claimed convergence by referring to a fictitious Mr Butskell.[1][2]

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.[3] 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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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.[4]

A similar term Blatcherism was coined to describe the supposed convergence of policies of the administrations of Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair.[5] Likewise, the term Blameronism was coined to describe the supposedly banal consensus of the Blair and Cameron administrations.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Economist, February 1954
  2. ^ The Economist - "The unacknowledged giant",27 June 2010
  3. ^ Kynaston (2007) pp467–469
  4. ^ Kelly (2002)
  5. ^ Kingdom, John (2003). Government and Politics in Britain: An introduction (PDF) (third ed.). Polity Press. p. 301. ISBN 978-0-7456-2594-2. 
  6. ^ New Statesman, "Labour and the Tories aren’t the same - so why do voters still think they are?", 21 January 2015