There is a certain irony here

A model of the biographer’s art”, which pulls back the curtain on one of the most significant but least recognised political figures of the last century, has won Britain’s most prestigious prize for political writing. John Bew’s Citizen Clem, about Clement Attlee, the founder of the NHS, was named winner of the £3,000 2017 Orwell prize for books at a ceremony in London on Thursday night.

Because 1984 was, in large part, about 1948 when Clem was PM. No, not the political side of it, but the descriptions of shortages, the utter, utter dreariness. And as we know, that was all prolonged by the idiot decision to try to plan everything. We know this, because when Adenauer said “Sod the planning” that’s when the German economy took off.

19 comments on “There is a certain irony here

  1. Attlee did great damage to his country. Yet he was the last decent fellow to be Labour PM.

    Wilson was a crook, Callaghan was permanently on manoeuvres, Blair was dangleworthy, and Brown had let frustrated ambition ruin his character.

  2. I think having all their debts written off in 1953 helped the Germans a bit.

    We were still paying our war loans until a dozen years ago.

  3. Major Attlee was not the mainspring of the NHS, it was Bevan and the party. Bevan used what he called “The Tredegar Model” to be applied to all the UK health provision, whether or not it was either right or sensible, in the name of central planning. The town where I lived had excellent health facilities, in which the old Friendly Societies played a part. In fact the new NHS meant a worsening and not an improvement.

  4. “The greatest leader the Labour party has ever had”

    Won a triple digit majority, but 5 years later, reduced to a majority of a handful. Called another election and was booted out in a year.

    Attlee got into power because people had had a rough time with WW2. He promised them better times. Didn’t deliver. Lost. Had power for 6 years out of 20 as leader.

    Blair won 2 massive majorities, and a healthy majority. In my lifetime, only Thatcher equals him for besting their opponents, of looking in a different league to them. His only failure was not purging it of communists like Corbyn.

  5. I recently read a book of letters by someone who lived through it, and seems like it was grim, and unnecessarily so. By the start of 1947 1 in 3 meals eaten in the UK was provided by the USA. Half of his letters seem to be thanking American friends who sent care packages, and bemoaning atlee’s unwillingness to acknowledge the US in any way. Apparently we even considered banning food gifts being sent from the US, for who knows what reason.

  6. It was Ludwig Erhard who got the Wirtschaftswunder rolling in Germany after the war. His book is worth a read, too.

  7. Apparently we even considered banning food gifts being sent from the US, for who knows what reason.

    We turned down participation in the Marshall Plan because it was deemed to be bad for morale. Which is probably just as well, because it would only have been pissed away on welfare and nationalisation projects.

  8. In my town there are still people who grumble about their local hospital paid for out of the pocket of local people being “stolen” by the 1948 government, along with the local gas, electricity and water undertakings.

  9. “Major Attlee was not the mainspring of the NHS, it was Bevan and the party. ”

    An NHS was proposed in the Beveridge report: the idea was adopted by the Conservative and Liberal parties, but rejected by Labour. Eventually Labour adopted it, but went into the General Election without having sorted out how they planned to implement it. So Bevan had a free hand, introducing it in what seems to me to have been a foolish fashion. And we’ve been stuck with it ever since because it happened to coincide with the widespread use of antibiotics, meaning that for the first time in history doctors could cure lots of people. Thus did the new State Religion come about.

  10. BiW

    “His only failure was not purging it of communists like Corbyn”

    Blair isn’t a socialist; but that can be said categorically of relatively few Labour MPs, then and now. Many Blairites so identified only because they thought that renouncing socialism was the route to power. Now that Corbyn has apparently shown the potential popularity of hard left policies we can expect many former ‘moderates’ to fall into line. Socialist scum all want more or less the same thing: where they disagree is on the means and the timescale.

  11. Because 1984 was, in large part, about 1948 when Clem was PM

    That’s completely untrue. The first draft of the novel was written in 1947, on Jura. Orwell himself wrote

    Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it.

    and

    My recent novel is NOT intended as an attack on Socialism or on the British Labour Party (of which I am a supporter) but as a show-up of the perversions to which a centralized economy is liable and which have already been partly realized in communism and Fascism.

  12. If what I’ve read is true, rationing was finally abolished only in July 1954, i.e. about three years in to a conservative government.
    They ALL want to screw us.

  13. @ bif
    Rationing was progressively abolished from the time that Churchill won the 1951 election – in 1952/3 I was playing with ration books that were no longer worth anything.

  14. @ SJW
    What was the name of the ruling party in “1984”?
    Oh, it was just the English, not the British, Socialist party!!

  15. john77: have you read the book? If you have, you’ll understand that the government in 1984 has redefined words in Newspeak to mean whatever the government wants them to mean.

  16. “They weren’t real socialists!” – the comfort blanket words of socialists everywhere, every time socialism leads to the immiseration of the unfortunates forced to live it.

  17. There are references to the themes of 1984 in many of his earlier works, several in “Coming Up For Air”, for example, which was published in 1938 I think.

  18. @ SJW
    Of course I have read the book, which is why I occasionally point out that it was not intended to be a manual but a warning.
    Too many “social justice warriors” – especially feminists – have adopted the prionciples of Newspeak.

  19. The NHS wasn’t proposed by the Beveridge Report, but in the Willink Report. Beveredge wrote his report with the assumption that some form of national healthcare system would be set up, broadly along the lines of the Willink Report. The Willink Report recommended an extension of the then-existing local council health service to ensure universal provision instead of just where local councils happened to have decided to do it, with some rationalisation and local area grouping. “A” National Health Service. Attlee in the grand centralising knee-jerk impulses of the Labour Party went for a single centralised central-government-controlled *THE* National Health Service.

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