The Welfare State


Was it just an idealistic move by Nye Bevan to create the NHS?

1. Tens of thousands of permanently disabled soldiers, maimed in terrible ways, lay in military field-hospitals in all of the theatres of war with Axis powers. That logistically required medical care around the clock for our heroes, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, Hindu and Buddhist having all making huge sacrifices fighting for us. This was a responsibility and complexity that Britain was to undertake whatever the circumstances of the individual to meet.


2. We had fought a world war that had required total production towards war. Where better than to establish an industry of national social and economic significance, when the 'business plan' and all the resources and manpower had already been successfully established, and very popular one at that? A no-brainer!

3. If you also wanted more taxation and more people being taxed to pay for an NHS and other labour policies, the idea to broaden taxation to middle-class, working-class and those who were subsisting seemed 'justifiable' to labour. All you had to do was to incentivise people with the promise of free health care, and national insurance etc. could be extended to those who had previously gone under the radar.

4. By proclaiming the virtues of the NHS, a surge in building and construction of the hospitals, and your re-investing in the same publicly popular business model, the NHS. The Attlee 1945-50 government were smart; they had a public that was tired of war on their side, because the NHS was advertised as the very peaceable opposite of war.

5. Furthermore, war had taken its toll on Britain, but the indefatigable coming together, the war spirit was advertised and ‘symbolised’ as the NHS bringing Britain together again.

To me, this illustrates the capacity of the Atlee administration to dominate the political agenda with a claim of having an electoral mandate to do so, but had the tendency to ‘bury bad news’ with kicking difficulties into the long grass, or just walking away from the problematic situations.

In summary I've tried to remind electors in 2015 that living in the past will not do. Certainly I would remind people that past glories of salad days of 1945-50 weren't as glorious after all.


© 2020 Stephen Hornsby-Smith

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