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The Rootes Story—Post-War Challenges

On May 23, 1945, the British wartime government came to an end and on July 5 voting took place to elect a new government. The result of the election surprised, but did not altogether shock, Winston Churchill, who had campaigned for a re-election. There were, however, more than a few hints in the run-up to the election that people wanted a radical change for post-war Britain. The election result was not declared until July 26 due to the delay in receiving postal votes from returning servicemen. When the result was announced, the Labour party, under leader Clement Atlee, had scored a landslide victory, with a majority of 146 and 47 per cent of the vote.

July 1945 – Winston Churchill in his Super Snipe drophead Coupé in north London campaigning for a general election post- war victory. Photo: COVENTRY ARCHIVES

Atlee’s government carried out their promises of radical new policies and social reforms that included the new National Health Service and a massive industrial nationalization program. Atlee’s first post-war Chancellor of the Exchequer was Hugh Dalton, who was in the cabinet for less than a couple of years, when he was replaced by Sir Stafford Cripps. However, Dalton did achieve one reform during his brief time in cabinet, which was to dispose of the dreaded “horsepower tax” in 1947. It was replaced by a flat-rate Road Fund Licence fee of £10, which encouraged buyers to look at larger-engined cars again. However, some of that incentive was largely removed by the Purchase Tax levy that had been imposed, in 1940, on luxury goods and would remain in place for another three decades.

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