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Defence policies of Britain under Labour in 1950s

Lascaris

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So since we have multiple threads for Britain making different choices on the aircraft industry, warships space and so on but it seems to me there might be a bit of an issue often enough on the political side of things that would actually effect such changes let's try something a bit different. Back in 1950 Labour did win it's second election in a row only for Attlee to call a second election a year later under pressure from the throne which Labour lost despite getting more votes than the conservatives. So say Attlee refuses the pressure from George VI for the simplest POD and you have a Labour government till 1955. Assuming the British economy does about as well as OTL you could actually end up with replacing the Conservatives staying continously in power till 1964 with Labour being continously in power till 1964 at a minimum you've got 1950-55. And a different government does cover the "why they do things differently" definition.

How different are the defence industrial policies of a Labour Britain likely to be compared to OTL? Do we see for example pressure to the aircraft companies to merge already from 1952-53? There is going to be V bomber force but possibly either Victor or Vulcan failing to see production? New carriers ordered as it means work for the shipyards which helps Labours costituency? Later in the 50s RAF being told the money is not there for free AW.155 so it better compromise to something more affordable like oh... CF-105? On the reverse do we potentially see a worse mess?

Thoughts?
 

zen

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So this will take time to get to even a partial scenario.
But straight off the bat the EM-2 rifle and .280 ammunition was being driven forward despite NATO 'standardisation'. It was Churchill that changed this.
 

Dilandu

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New carriers ordered as it means work for the shipyards which helps Labours costituency?

An interesting question: would Labour government oppose the Navy's promoted broken-backed warfare doctrine? Royal Navy in early 1950s was rather... strange, essentially trying to deny the atomic bomb role in warfare. While American and Soviet navies generally agreed that atomic bomb is a game-changer, and traditional "sea domination" role must be subordinated to the demands of nuclear warfare - Royal Navy argued that nuclear warfare have little to do with navy at all, that nuclear exchange would be indecisive, and after it would be a period of prolonged conventional warfare, in which traditional "sea domination" would work. While I do not exactly knew what the Conservatives position was toward the "broken-backed warfare" concept, I suppose that Labours probably would be more openly critical of it.
 

zen

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This beggars a lot if questions.
What would Labour do about Korea?
What about Egypt and Nasser?
Franco-British invasion of Suez?
Hungary?

Would they have the Sandys Defence White Paper?

Or would they never get into that bind?
Instead worse relations with the US suspicious of a socialist government.
NATO compromises not happening could undermine NATO.
This might kill off the NMBR. Process.
Less involvement in Korea.
Rearmament less, with less scope for superpriorty to hand rushed aircraft riddled with design flaws. Or overambitious naval plans.
No Suez, and no Sandystorm, because RAF hasn't been allowed to demand so much.

Nuclear program would still be driven forward though.

Labour might remain attached to conscription, for ideological reasons. So professionalisation of the Army could be much delayed.
 

Lascaris

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This beggars a lot if questions.
What would Labour do about Korea?
It start under Labour, which in reaction sharply increased defence spending. Churchill took over in effect in 1952 when what was left of the war was the Chinese accepting it was over. So not much difference there.

What about Egypt and Nasser?

Franco-British invasion of Suez?
Don't see Nasser acting much differently. Would Britain act much differently? If Britain is still under Labour in 1956 that's a Gaitskell cabinet. At the start of the crisis he was for immediate intervention after telling the US. By the time of the actual invasion he was against it. So you could have either an earlier invasion or no British invasion at all. Which may well mean a French-Israeli invasion instead.

Again no much different. Labour under both Attlee and then Gaitskell is very much pro-American and steadfastly anti-Soviet.

The only two potentially notable changes may be Iran and Cyprus. If you don't have operation Ajax and instead a negotiated deal with Mossadegh it's going to be big. And if Britain under Labour does not cling to Cyprus no matter what, well that's good news for Greece at least.

And also you have Britain looking more towards the empire instead of the EEC that begins forming.

Would they have the Sandys Defence White Paper?

Or would they never get into that bind?
My question is... perhaps you have something similar as early as 1953-54, right after the end of the Korean war? In the sense of "we can support 20 different companies merge or die" but without cancelling every single aircraft program around.


Instead worse relations with the US suspicious of a socialist government.
NATO compromises not happening could undermine NATO.
This might kill off the NMBR. Process.
Does it? As mentioned Labour was pretty much steadfastly anti-communist. Did the US treat French socialist governments under either Mendes-France or Mollet notably differently?

But I could actually see the 1958 US-British nuclear agreement failing. Which could have interesting and major effects. Britain is not giving up its own nuclear program. So what t's going to be doing? Cooperate with France for example? British SSBNs with French M20 missiles and French SSBNs with British reactors? Anglo-French strategic bombers? (frex Mirage IVB with RB106/Olympus/Iroquois engines?) It's a logical option to take...

Less involvement in Korea.
Rearmament less, with less scope for superpriorty to hand rushed aircraft riddled with design flaws. Or overambitious naval plans.
No Suez, and no Sandystorm, because RAF hasn't been allowed to demand so much.
If you have everyone as part of *BAC and *Hawker post about 1954 (don't know if that's plausible but seems to me logical) then what are they doing? Potentialy Swift and Hunter were not both rushed into service at the time of Korea, without "super-priority" n 1952 . So possibly you only have hunter in production. Perhaps then with a single type in service instead of Mk6 you are getting the supersonic P.1083 as about everyone else had been doing at the time? Post that closer ties with the empire and reining onto RAF somewhat at least looks to me to mean CF-105 as an interceptor and maybe the only way to get something like P.1121 or Type 583 accepted. If at the same time you are forcing the navy into 35-45,000t carriers...
 

starviking

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What about Egypt and Nasser?
Franco-British invasion of Suez?
Don't see Nasser acting much differently. Would Britain act much differently? If Britain is still under Labour in 1956 that's a Gaitskell cabinet. At the start of the crisis he was for immediate intervention after telling the US. By the time of the actual invasion he was against it. So you could have either an earlier invasion or no British invasion at all. Which may well mean a French-Israeli invasion instead.

More pertinent would be "What is Labour's view/reaction to Arab Nationalism?" Do we get a HMG that can somehow work with Nasser (Or even prevent his ascension to power?). Can relations across the Middle East be more favourable to the UK?

Rearmament less, with less scope for superpriorty to hand rushed aircraft riddled with design flaws. Or overambitious naval plans.
No Suez, and no Sandystorm, because RAF hasn't been allowed to demand so much.
If you have everyone as part of *BAC and *Hawker post about 1954 (don't know if that's plausible but seems to me logical) then what are they doing? Potentialy Swift and Hunter were not both rushed into service at the time of Korea, without "super-priority" n 1952 . So possibly you only have hunter in production. Perhaps then with a single type in service instead of Mk6 you are getting the supersonic P.1083 as about everyone else had been doing at the time? Post that closer ties with the empire and reining onto RAF somewhat at least looks to me to mean CF-105 as an interceptor and maybe the only way to get something like P.1121 or Type 583 accepted. If at the same time you are forcing the navy into 35-45,000t carriers...

The attitude to industry will be key, but beyond the initial post-war nationalisations, I don't know much about Labour policy/sentiment. They certainly were keen on nationalisations in the 70s, but the views of a Labour Party which had more government years under their belt might have evolved away from that.
 

uk 75

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To short circuit this thread a Labour Government from 1953 to 1961 would have had the same range of options and limitations as the Conservatives faced.
Attlee and then Gaitskell were more cautious and methodical then Churchill and Eden, closer to Macmillan.
The biggest defence conundrum would have been the future of the nuclear deterrent. Soviet missiles drove this question rather than Sandys' dogma.
1957 would still have seen Blue Streak or some other guided weapon selected to replace the V force in the 60s.
The RAF fighter force would not stop Soviet SS4 missiles nor were there any easier choices about replacing Meteors, Hunters et al.
NATO would still have been the main driver of the Navy and Army general purpose forces with East of Suez running second.
Neither Attlee nor Gaitskell had Eden's demons about Nasser as a new Mussolini or Hitler. They would have been more guided by professional diplomats and Earl Mountbatten.
All in all it would have been a calmer and better managed period.
Industrial policy with the likes of Harold Wilson pushing to modernise Britain's sclerotic management and rationalise the companies into bigger units would have been tougher.
The RAF would still have only got Lightnings and Bloodhounds instead of the madcap pre 1957 plans. But in a less stressful way. The Canberra replacement might well have ended up being the Buccaneer rather than the ever growing TSR2. Solly Zuckerman would have seen to that.
 

alertken

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The direction of travel of posts is in the sense...not much different really. This is hard for political-geeks to take: their whole outlook is that my lot is better than your lot. But in Defence and Foreign Policy...that is probably right: that real options are few: PM Macmillan is famous for answering a Q involving strategy and plans: that decisions follow Events, dear boy, events. The equivalent miltary quote (v.Molke?) is that no Plan survives contact with the enemy.

An odd feature of Br.Defence Policy post 1945 is that Conservatives have presented themselves as "owning" Defence, safe in our hands, we are sound on the Deterrent, the other lot are unreliable, Commie-tilting...whereas...Labour initiated UK AW, influenced and strongly supported the forming of NATO, put UK into the UN Korean War, extended duration of conscription...and lost 10/51 Election in part because they Approved a 3-year Defence Budget that Tories said was unaffordable and reduced as soon as they got in.

So, let's go to 1956, Nasser responding to US declining to fund the Aswan Dam, so tilting-East and Nationalising the Canal. If Labour had won, 10/51 (and again before 10/56), I suggest they would have repeated the Korean event, seeking a UN Peacekeeping approach. So: would USSR then have been bold enough to crush Hungary while the West was not looking? Or would some wind-of-change loosening have followed, as USSR realised the cost of Empire was crippling?

All of that would feed into the 2 strands of UK Defence Policy that ran through the mid-Century: East of Suez, and the Independent Deterrent.

What actually happened was that Macmillan's grass-roots Party favoured Independent Bombs and Empire cohesion, while Mac subordinated UK to US AW and opened the wind of change to Independence of former colonies; while Labour grass-roots professed Internationalism and Nuclear Disarmament, while its Ministers renewed AW Forces (Labour started the Polaris enhancement, Chevaline, and secured J.Carter's agreement that we could have Trident C4), tried to offer an AW umbrella to India (thoughts of an RN SSBN in the Indian O continued into 1968), and worked hard to secure the Saudi Air Defence System, 12/65 (Israel may have wondered who was the opponent). The PM, Home, who lost to Wilson, 10/64 despite peddling the unsound-on-Defence card, later said he “had always found (HW) very good to deal with on national security questions” britac.ac.uk/pubs/review/perspectives/0703Cabinets andbomb-2 27/3/07. New PM Wilson 11/64: “We are a world power & a world influence or we are nothing” M.Jones,,Br.Strat.Nuc.Det/2,P17.

We must purge our minds of thoughts of Commie Labour. JM#3, Cripps seling Derwent/Nene to USSR, is false revisionism: centrifugal Whittles were then no longer military-classified (UK sold them to {Nationalist} China, Egypt and Argentina) and the Pres. of the Board of Trade had PM's support in trying to find non-$ sources of timber - the Ukraine -to rehouse the blitzed.
 
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Hood

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Altertken outlines some of the issues. Policy is often a pragmatic response to other pressures.
The finances would still be dire and there would still be pressures to reduce military R&D in the mid-50s.
Labour had surprisingly little interest in forced mergers or even nationalisations in the aviation industry during the Atlee and early Wilson years - they seemed to know it was beneficial but seemed content to let industry get on and not disrupt the Korean-era rearmament programme. As Alertken points out, the top echelons of Labour were not squeamish about nuclear weapons or defence spending - as long as the money was available (the Tories always their eye on the money, they probably cut far more than Labour ever did). Had they been able to avoid boom and bust then its possible a smoother defence spending could have been achieved.

The main factor is scenarios like is that it ignores the bigger picture. Irrespective of who is in power, or which Ministers are appointed, the bulk of the civil servants of the MoS and MoA are identical, the Air Staff and Admiralty are identical, industry leaders are identical. So their requirements and solutions and competencies are likely to be very similar regardless of who is in Number 10.

An interesting question: would Labour government oppose the Navy's promoted broken-backed warfare doctrine? Royal Navy in early 1950s was rather... strange, essentially trying to deny the atomic bomb role in warfare. While American and Soviet navies generally agreed that atomic bomb is a game-changer, and traditional "sea domination" role must be subordinated to the demands of nuclear warfare - Royal Navy argued that nuclear warfare have little to do with navy at all, that nuclear exchange would be indecisive, and after it would be a period of prolonged conventional warfare, in which traditional "sea domination" would work. While I do not exactly knew what the Conservatives position was toward the "broken-backed warfare" concept, I suppose that Labours probably would be more openly critical of it.
The Strath Report of 1955 finally killed any notions of broken-backed war, the shift was pretty immediate (and the cost savings were a nice big bonus too). Thermonuclear warfare was far beyond the scale of the A-bomb era destructive capability. The Navy may have clung on a little longer than the other services but then its assets were more survivable.
 

zen

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So Nasser is a curiosity, in that he got lucky. Soviet view was Egypt is Western proxy, not worth the risk.
Nasser's gamble worked.....just.
Consequently Soviet/Egyptian power game down the Red Sea and East Africa.
Ultimately led Egypt to brake away. Because Egypt is one of the premier powers in the Middle East and leadership narcissism/pride.

Mossadegh is Churchill's gamble, again it worked. Would Labour Gov even try this? How much was US persuaded by Churchill?
Would it last?
Would Allies go "who cares who sells us oil?"
Or would US go "we must have anti-communist Iran"?

Hungary.....complex one this. Depends on Yugoslavia and Tito.
With Ceacescu potential for dominos to fall if Moscow doesn't roll the tanks. Dare they risk that?
 

CNH

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Arguably, Labour cancelled more aircraft projects in 1964 than Sandys cancelled in 1957.
 

Hood

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Arguably, Labour cancelled more aircraft projects in 1964 than Sandys cancelled in 1957.
If you just look at two years, and ignore Swift in 1955 among the pre-Sandys cuts, Plan Ahead and Bloodhound III in 1960, NIGS and Blue Streak and PT428 in 1961, Rotodyne and AAMs in 1962, Violent Friend in 1962 oh and Blue Water the same year and still not done with Skybolt (the Yanks share in this too) plus the naval P.1154 to boot all in the same year! Command Guided Bloodhound in 1963 and OR350 to replace Shackleton, Victor order also cancelled.

Actually the only thing chopped up under Labour in 1964 was Valiant as TSR/1154RAF/AW681 were cancelled in 1965 along with Mauler. CVA-01 in 66, AVFG in 67 (well France buggered that equally), Chinook in 67, F-111K in 68, AST364 transport in 68.
 
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