Although there was a gradual improvement throughout the first half of the 20th century, by the early 1960s Britain was still a relatively unequal society in which individuals could be openly discriminated against purely on the basis of their sex, race and sexual orientation. Thus liberals and progressives of that time were easily able to portray themselves in a positive way as modern, forward looking, free thinking, open minded champions for a more enlightened society, in contrast to the reactionary, self satisfied, privileged and hidebound conservative establishment which then controlled most of the levers of power.
This conservative consensus began to break down from the mid 1960s onwards with the rise in feminism, opposition to racial injustice and a more frank and open discussion of sexual matters. So some of the early demand of liberals clearly addressed problems that needed rectifying such as the granting of equal pay for women, an end to discrimination in public services for black people and the repeal of legislation which criminalised male homosexuality. So given the reasonableness of some of the early progressive demands it was clearly right that they were conceded.
Not everybody was happy with these changes but they had the strong support of educated and activist young people newly benefiting from the expansion in university education. Since liberals were largely pushing at an open door with their early demands, their self confidence grew and their claims became more vocal. In contrast, the conservative establishment found itself increasingly placed on the defensive.
Future posts in this series will explore how these reforms to rectify past injustices and to promote equality of opportunity gradually morphed into the current obsession by liberals with the pernicious practice of identity politics. The posts will consider in turn how this development has impacted on the politics of gender, race and sexual orientation, and allowed an extensive an entrenched victim culture to develop in all these categories.