Attlee went on to win a narrow majority of five seats at the 1950 general election, forming the second Attlee ministry. Just twenty months after that election, Attlee called a new election for 25 October 1951 in an attempt to gain a larger majority, but was narrowly defeated by the Conservatives.
The Labour Party came to power in the United Kingdom after its unexpected victory in the July 1945 general election. Party leader Clement Attlee became Prime Minister replacing Winston Churchill in late July. Ernest Bevin was Foreign Secretary until shortly before his death in April 1951. Hugh Dalton became Chancellor of the Exchequer, but had to resign in 1947, while James Chuter Ede was Home Secretary for the whole duration of the Attlee ministries' stay in power.
Other notable figures in the government included: Herbert Morrison, Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the House of Commons, who replaced Bevin as Foreign Secretary in March 1951; Sir Stafford Cripps was initially President of the Board of Trade but replaced Dalton as Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1947; Hugh Gaitskell held several minor posts before replacing Cripps as Chancellor in 1950; Nye Bevan was Minister for Health; Arthur Greenwood was Lord Privy Seal and Paymaster General while future Prime Minister Harold Wilson became the youngest member of the cabinet in the 20th century (at the age of 31) when he was made President of the Board of Trade in 1947. The most notable of the few female members of the government was Ellen Wilkinson, who was Minister for Education until her early death in 1947.
It was an "age of austerity," as wartime rationing was continued despite the Allied Forces' victory, and was even expanded upon to include bread. Living conditions were poor, instead of expansion, it was a matter of replacing the national wealth destroyed or used up during the war. The Great Depression did not return, and full employment was created. Returning veterans were successfully reabsorbed into the postwar society. The Attlee government nationalised about 20% of the economy, including coal, railways, road transport, the Bank of England, civil aviation, electricity and gas, and steel. However, there was no money for investment to modernise these industries, and there was no effort made to turn control over to union members. The Attlee government greatly expanded the welfare state, with the National Health Service Act 1946, which nationalised the hospitals and provided for free universal healthcare. The National Insurance Act 1946 provided sickness and unemployment benefits for adults, plus retirement pensions. The National Assistance Act 1948 provided a safety net for anyone not otherwise covered.. More council housing was built, and plans were made through the New Towns Act of 1946 for the growth of suburbs, and to reduce overcrowding in major cities such as London and Glasgow. Since there was little money for detailed planning, the government adopted Keynesianism, which allowed for planning in the sense of overall control of the national deficit and surplus. Two laws written by the Conservatives during the war were expanded, the Family Allowances Act 1945 and the Education Act 1944.
The Transport Act 1947 established the British Transport Commission, which took control over the railways from the Big Four — Great Western Railway, London, Midland and Scottish Railway, London and North Eastern Railway and the Southern Railway — to form British Railways.