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Clement Attlee’s government carried out many radical reforms, but only one of its principal policies was prompted by ideological socialism: the nationalisation of iron and steel. Everything else can be traced back to the ideas of Keynes and Beveridge, both Liberals; or consensus policies developed by the wartime coalition; or a practical need to harness private utilities to the task of post-war reconstruction. The consequences for post-war Britain could have been enormous had Attlee’s cabinet resisted ideological socialism and not taken over iron and steel.

Attlee had not intended to nationalise them; but in December 1944 Labour’s annual conference voted…

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