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1957: Britons 'have never had it so good'

The British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, has made an optimistic speech telling fellow Conservatives that "most of our people have never had it so good".

The prime minister was speaking at a Tory rally in Bedford to mark 25 years' service by Mr Lennox-Boyd, the Colonial Secretary, as MP for Mid-Bedfordshire.

Mr Macmillan painted a rosy picture of Britain's economy while urging wage restraint and warning inflation was the country's most important problem of the post-war era.

Increased production in major industries such as steel, coal and motor cars had led to a rise in wages, export earnings and investment, he said.


" You will see a state of prosperity such as we have never had in my lifetime - nor indeed in the history of this country"

Harold Macmillan, British Prime Minister

"Indeed let us be frank about it - most of our people have never had it so good.

"Go around the country, go to the industrial towns, go to the farms and you will see a state of prosperity such as we have never had in my lifetime - nor indeed in the history of this country."

The main issue was how to maintain growth and employment but keep prices steady - what he called the "64,000-dollar question".

His answer was to increase production in a combined operation involving not just the government but also industry and the public.

"What we need is restraint and commonsense - restraint in the demands we make and commonsense on how we spend our income."

He took the opportunity to attack the "doctrinaire nightmare" of socialism and its policies of nationalisation and central planning.

He reminded his audience not to forget "rationing, shortages, inflation, and one crisis after another in our international trade" under a Labour government.

On the question of colonialism, Mr Macmillan said people of the Commonwealth looked to Britain for leadership and were gradually gaining their freedom.

In March, Ghana became the first Black African nation to gain independence from the UK. Other British colonies are expected to follow suit in the next few years.

"The pattern of the Commonwealth is changing and with it is changing Britain's position as the Mother Country. Our children are growing up."

In Context
Thanks to a boom in the post-war global economy, Britain under Harold Macmillan saw a dramatic rise in the standard of living - and as a result a resounding election victory for the Conservatives in 1959.

But in 1961 his government imposed an unpopular wage freeze and other measures to curb rising inflation.

Mr Macmillan's failed attempts to join the EEC and his approval of African independence - made known in his "wind of change" speech in South Africa in 1960 - were regarded as a little too progressive by some in the party.

Then the Profumo scandal of 1963 also harmed the Tories' reputation.

Mr Macmillan resigned from office in October 1963 due to ill health. He left the Commons a year later.

In 1984 he was granted the title Earl of Stockton. He died, aged 92, two years later.


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