I broke my wisdom tooth on Hogmanay night whilst munching on a cheese and onion crisp. It was very undignified and the pain was awful, after going to bed weeping in to my pillow, I could stand no more and phone NHS 24 begging for help in a whimpering voice, they took my details and a nurse phoned me back. They told me to come to the dental hospital that night. So on Ne’er Day I found myself at the hospital with a few other miserable looking people. I saw a lovely dentist who oohed and ahhed at my broken tooth and put a dressing on it. The long and short of it is that today, the day of Thatcher’s funeral I had a molar and my broken wisdom tooth removed, and it’s sore but the service from the NHSwas supportive and without fault.
So today, my thoughts are not with Thatcher, but with Mr Clement Atlee, who brought us the NHS and Welfare State. When he died in 1967 he wasn’t given a military or state funeral, there were no honour guards and Big Ben carried on striking as normal, thousands did not come out to boo or to mourn, he was buried quietly and respectfully with his family, friends and political collegues, saying goodbye to their friend, comrade and the person who was dear to them and they loved.
I don’t know much about Clement Atlee, just that he was prime minister between 1945 to 1951 and that his government brought in the welfare state and NHS they also started to nationalise the economy, railway, mining, steel, energy – they realised that running such essential services for profit was exploitative and not in the interest of the people. India also became independent. Atlee did the opposite of Thatcher – his government built Britain, gave to the poor and sick, he and his government wanted a more fair, equal and secure nation. He wanted us to be safe, healthy and secure from cradle to grave, his idea of fairness was inspired by socialism.
I didn’t know (or I forgot) he was the Labour Party leader for 20 years, he waited 10 years before coming Prime Minister. He wasn’t from working class stock, he was a Oxford graduate and barrister but he gave up law to become a social worker in the East End of London when he joined the Labour Party and then became the Labour MP for Stephney.
It sort of passed me by that Mr Atlee was the Deputy Prime Minister to Winston Churchill, but I did know from an early age that in 1945 Britain elected a Labour Government and I know he went to the House Of Lords as an Earl. I haven’t seen Ken Loach’s Spirit of ’45 but it seems apt to remember what a Labour Government influenced by socialism did for us in 1945 – see the trailer here. I wish I knew more about Clement Atlee and have promised myself to read a biography about him this summer.
As I said earlier I am sure he was not without fault, and I know that radical socialists and Trotskyists will be able to point out in great detail the error of his reformist and revisionist ways and he he did not implement the Transtitional Programme (I’ll live with that) but today I am remembering him, the Prime Minister who brought communities together, who believed in society and built an NHS and Welfare State. Sleep well Mr Atlee and thank you.