Posts Tagged ‘The Spirit of ’45’

The trouble with ‘45

03/07/2013, 05:35:56 PM

by Lee Butcher

Emerging phoenix like from the ashes of 2010 is proving somewhat more difficult than initially expected by some in the Labour party. The shattered economy, left ruined by the fiendish bankers, found the party holding the can and going down to a historically poor election defeat.

The usual fissures in the party have opened up and among the unsurprising and entirely unoriginal bickering between left and right about who is to blame, and who will resurrect the party in time for 2015, a certain wistful gaze over the historical shoulders of the movement has began.

The ‘right’ may have stopped looking back when arriving at Mr Blair’s lofty shoulders but the loosely defined ‘left’ have taken it upon themselves to cast their gaze back further into the distant past coming to a halt at the heady days of July 1945. Ken Loach’s nostalgic documentary outing, soon to be a regular repeat on Film 4, was the cultural firing gun of this endeavour.

A country whose recent past had left its economy close to bankruptcy and social ills crying out for remedy; 1945 and 2015 have never felt so similar. These observations are not entirely incorrect and any wise head in the party would do well to ask what Clement Attlee’s band of post-war “revolutionaries” has to teach us.

The problem is not that it is the wrong question to ask, the problem is that the answers returned are incomplete. As with all matters historical and political, the devil lay firmly in the detail.

As the proponents of such a view argue Attlee & Co. faced a fiscal crisis worse than our own and went on to dramatically increase public spending. They did it, so can we! They are entirely correct, but that enthusiasm can only be dampened when it comes to how they did it.

Britain’s economy, then as now, was in great trouble. Bankrupt is the term employed by most post-war historians to describe the Treasury’s books. George Osborne may have been rendered dumbfounded by a certain predecessor’s note informing him of the fiscal situation, Hugh Dalton must have been rendered incandescent at the sight of most of Britain’s cities laying in ruins.

In response to the fiscal legacy left by the work of the Luftwaffe’s finest, and the unbearable burden of maintaining over one million men in uniform scattered across the world, and the government picking up the bill for thousands conscripted to keep the essential industries running, Attlee and Dalton came to much the same conclusion as Messrs Cameron and Osborne; we need to cut spending.


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“The Spirit of ’45” shows us there is an alternative

26/03/2013, 10:41:54 AM

by Amanda Ramsay

On Sunday I had the pleasure of watching Ken Loach’s new film The Spirit of ’45. It’s still on at cinemas across the UK and the DVD comes out on 15 April. If you do one thing this Easter weekend, it should be to see this film.

Combining archive footage and interviews with current and historic figures, we hear first-hand what life was like back then, socially and politically. The grim living conditions of the slums and unaffordable health care, with medicine and doctors out of the question for many.

Focusing on the pre-war enemies of poverty and unemployment, this documentary also points to the social changes the second world war heralded, like the whole scale need for women in the work force.

This was the beginning of a change in the order of things. Before the war everything in Britain was ‘run by rich people for rich people’, as one interviewee points out but the general election of 1945 saw Labour win a landslide majority and used this electoral might to introduce the welfare state, nationalise key industries and guarantee full employment.

A confident and ambitious Labour party brought in our much loved NHS, an ambitious housing programme, nationalised the rail system, water and energy and delivered full employment to the nation.

With energy and water bills sky high now and rail travel in the UK usually more expensive than flying to foreign lands (nearly £200 to get to London from Bristol return) Labour’s next government needs to show a similar boldness and confidence to that of the spirit of ’45.

In the face of war torn and indebted post-world war Britain, Labour had the determination and vision to take on huge infrastructure projects that have become the cornerstones of our modern British society. This is a film about the triumph of optimism over cynicism, hope over greed, collectivism over the self-obsession of the individual, that erosive Thatcherite philosophy.

Resonating with current policy debates, attacks on the welfare state, mammoth cuts, the privatisation of healthcare and threats to the NHS, this documentary explores the creation and development of social welfare institutions in the UK by the Labour government after the second world war.


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