Land Nationalisation and the Agricultural Policy Community

AuthorMartin J. Smith
DOI10.1177/095207678900400303
Publication Date01 December 1989
SubjectArticles
9
Land
Nationalisation
and
the
Agricultural
Policy
Community
Martin
J.
Smith
Department
of Government,
Brunel
University
Abstract
Labour
came
to
power
in
1945
with
a
commitment
to
nationalisation
and
a
high
degree
of
public
support.
Land
nationalisation
had
been
Labour
Party
policy
since
1918.
However,
the
Government
did
not
use
the
opportunity
of
their
victory
to
bring
land
into
public
ownership.
This
article
analyses
why
the
1945
Labour
Government
failed
to
implement
this
policy.
Previous
explanations
have
suggested
the
omission
was
due
to
Labour’s
revisionist
nature
and
the
Government’s
belief
that
the
measures
it
did
introduce
provided
adequate
control
of
agriculture.
The
paper
argues
that
whilst
there
might
be
some
truth
in
these
interpretations,
a
more
fruitful
analysis
is
that
the
existence
of
a
closed
agricultural
policy
community
prevented
the
issue
being
raised.
A
policy
community
operates
on
the
basis
of
certain
shared
assumptions
about
policy.
Thus
land
nationalisation
was
excluded
as
an
issue
because
it
would
have
provoked
controversy
and
threatened
the
community
when
the
Government
wanted
to
preserve
good
relations
with
the
farmers.
The
Labour
Government
came
to
power
in
1945
with
a
large
majority,
an
apparently
high
level
of
support
throughout
the
country,
and
a
radical
manifesto.
It
used
the
mandate
for
this
manifesto
to
nationalise
some
of
the
key
industries
in
the
British
economy.
One
area
where
there
was
a
high
degree
of
support
for
nationalisation
was
land,
and
the
goal
of
public
ownership
of
agricultural
land
had
been
Labour
policy
since
the
1920s.
Yet,
despite
the
general
level
support
for
the
policy,
the
fact
that
Labour
pushed
through
nationalisation
in
other
areas,
and
the
size
of
its
Parliamentary
majority,
the
1945
to
’51
Labour
Governments
did
not
nationalise
land.
This
raises
the
question
of
why
Labour
was
prepared
to
challenge
the
possessions
of
the
coal
owners,
etc
but
not
the
landowners -
why
did
Labour
fail
to
nalionalise
land
when
1945
appeared
such
a
golden
opportunity
for
this
policy?
Two
possible
explanations
for
this
omission
are:
firstly,
that
once
in
power
the
Labour
government
moved
to
the
right
and
so
it
did
not
have
the
will
to
carry
out
such
a
radical
policy;
or
secondly,
that
through
the
Town
and
Country
Planning
Act
and
the
1947
Agriculture
Act,
Labour
had
enough
means
to
control

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