Thursday 8 October 2020

Why Clement Attlee was the greatest PM of the 20th Century

Clement Attlee was born on January 3rd 1883 and served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom between July 1945 and October 1951. He was, in my view, by far the best UK Prime Minister of the 20th Century and his government was an inspiration to the developed world.

When Attlee's Labour government came to power in 1945 the UK was a blitzed-out and war fatigued nation with the biggest national debt in its entire history (more than 237% of GDP). Attlee's government rapidly reconstructed and restructured the UK economy to avoid a post-war crisis, founded the NHS, improved pensions, introduced Legal Aid, nationalised core industries, improved workers' rights and built hundreds of thousands of decent houses a year to replace the appalling slums that George Orwell wrote about in The Road To Wigan Pier.

The really incredible thing is that this amazing post-war government reconstruction and investment frenzy actually resulted in a huge drop in the national debt.

Attlee's government took on a massively complex post-war reconstruction project; lifted millions of people out of dire poverty, ill-health and slum dwellings at the same time; and they did it in such a way that he actually ended up significantly reducing the national debt in the process.

In light of all of his incredible achievements, not least the foundation of the NHS during his tenure, I have no hesitation in saying that Attlee was the best Prime Minister of the 20th Century.

It's very interesting to contrast the 40%+ drop in the national debt Attlee's government achieved between 1945 and 1951 through their investment and reconstruction agenda with the massive increase in the scale of UK public debt after a decade of this ruinous Tory austerity agenda.

After a decade of being continually blitzed with Tory austerity propaganda lies that public debts can be reduced by slashing wages, public services, education, and investment, it may seem somewhat surprising that the national debt fell dramatically despite all of Attlee's spending and investment.

The reality of course is that all of the Tory austerity propaganda has always been economically illiterate nonsense designed to dupe the gullible into supporting the radically right-wing Tory agenda of massively enriching the tiny mega-rich minority, whilst making the rest of us pay the tab with an unprecedented period of wage repression, public service cuts, infrastructure under-investment, and ideologically driven vandalism of the social safety net.

Attlee proved the correct way to reduce debts and dramatically increase prosperity is through infrastructure investment, decent wages, education, public ownership, social housing, and the development of advanced public services.

History is shouting us a clear message that strategic investment is the key to recovery, not some ludicrous economic fairy tale that there is no alternative to a load of endlessly repeated Tory "let's cut our way to growth" austerity nonsense.

Clement Attlee proved that it is absolutely possible to make life better for all sectors of society through strategic investment, whilst actually reducing the national debt in the process.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic the Tory Chancellor Rishi Sunak is proposing to let whole sectors of the UK economy simply die off, and threatening the most savage package of cuts to the social safety net in history, proving the Tory determination to do the precise opposite

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We're being ruled over by a lawless bunch of Tory thugs

This week both the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and the Home Secretary Priti Patel have used their Tory party conference speeches to spit venom at “lefty lawyers” and “do-gooders” because they attempt to hold this malicious, lawless shambles of a government to the rule of law.

Meanwhile the Tories are trying to push through three outrageous pieces of legislation through parliament simultaneously, all of which seek to undermine international law, and drastically redefine the powers of agents of the British state to behave lawlessly.

Internal Market Bill

The Internal Market Bill is designed to tear up Boris Johnson’s “Oven Ready” Brexit deal with the EU, within a year of signing it.

Having rushed it through parliament and then hastily signing it off with the EU in January 2020 (to delirious Brexiteer celebrations) this isn’t just a Brexit plan any more, it’s now a signed and sealed international treaty.

For Johnson and the Tories to suddenly turn around and say that the deal they signed is flawed nonsense that has to be ripped up in the faces of the people they just signed it with is an outright affront to common decency, but it’s also an attack on the rule of law, because not only does it involve tearing up a binding international treaty they only just signed, it also severely endangers the Good Friday Agreement.

The Tory Northern Ireland minister Brandon Lewis actually stood up in parliament and admitted that the Internal Market Bill is intended to break international law, and somehow this lawless Tory regime is being allowed to get away with brazenly turning the UK into an international pariah state that reneges on its signed and sealed international commitments.

Overseas Operations Bill

The next outrageously lawless piece of Tory legislation is the Overseas Operations Bill, which seeks to provide British military personnel legal immunity from prosecution for torture, murder, and war crimes, as long as they can cover up what they did for five years.

This despicable effort to effectively legalise torture and war crimes clearly contravenes all kinds of international agreements and accords, most notably the UNCAT, which states that victims of torture are entitled to justice and redress, no matter when the violations occurred.

Aside from the lawlessness of this legislation, it also sets an appalling precedent because if the UK uses domestic legislation to exempt their military personnel from legal accountability for torture and war crimes, why on earth wouldn’t other rogue regimes follow suit?

Additionally, this drive to provide impunity for torturers, murderers, and war criminals within the ranks of the UK armed forces is likely to have severely adverse consequences on the front line, because the push back from opposition combatants is likely to be absolutely fierce if British soldiers are perceived to be a lawless and unaccountable militia who are encouraged by their government to torture, murder civilians, and commit heinous war crimes with promises of legal impunity.

Spy Cops Bill

Then there’s the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Spy Cops) Bill which seeks to give agents of the state extraordinary powers to commit crimes, up to and including rape, torture, and murder, with legal impunity.

We already know that Spy Cops have perpetrated all kinds of outrages whilst spying on all kinds of non-violent campaign groups; they’ve entrapped activists by orchestrating criminal actions themselves. They’ve conducted sexual relationships with their targets, up to the point of raising kids with their victims before hastily disappearing off the scene entirely once their assignment is over; and they’ve even infiltrated groups campaigning against police violence and miscarriages of justice in order to smear them and disrupt their activities.

This new Spy Cops Bill is designed to allow spy cops to do all of the above, and even to commit crimes in order to fit people up, as long as they invent some spurious excuse for why framing an individual (for example by uploading child sexual abuse or terrorist materials onto their computer) is “in the national interest”.

Alarmingly it isn’t just police, military, and secret services operatives the Tories are plotting to give immunity from prosecution for fitting people up, and committing heinous crimes like torture, rape, and murder. The same powers are being given to agents of all kinds of quangos like the Food Standards Agency, the Gambling Commission, the Competition and Markets Authority, and the Environment Agency!

Even if you’re the kind of drooling far-right authoritarian who believes that spy cops should be given immunity from prosecution if they commit forgery, perjury, fraud, rape, torture, or murder in the course of their work, surely you’ve got to be left left wondering why on earth the Tories are so keen to rush through legislation designed to exempt employees from the Food Standards Agency or Gambling Commission from prosecution from engaging in such criminality too.

And it hardly takes a genius to understand what a terrifying assault on the rule of law it is for the Tory government to give spy cops (and all kinds of other state employees) legal immunity from prosecution if they’re caught committing heinous crimes on behalf of the state.

How does the right to a fair trial survive legislation designed to give spy cops legal immunity from prosecution, even if they commit crimes themselves in order to fit up members of activist groups that the UK government has taken a dislike to?

How does the ECHR right to freedom from torture and degrading treatment survive legislation designed to give agents of the British state the power to commit acts of torture and abuse with legal impunity?

Tory lawlessness

All three of these bills are aimed squarely at undermining international law, and giving agents of the British state the power to behave lawlessly.

This sickening combination of radical anti-lawyer rhetoric from leading Tory figures, and all of this deliberately lawless Tory legislation should be terrifying to anyone who considers the rule of law to be one of the essential pillars of democracy.

But let’s not kid ourselves that this tsunami of Tory lawlessness and anti-lawyer rhetoric is something that’s come out of the blue, because there were loads of warnings before the 2019 general election, stretching all the way back to the coalition government era.

⚫ Page 48 of the Tory manifesto that pledged to tear up our human rights and replace them with a set of Tory allowances, and to dramatically reduce the powers of judicial review.

⚫ Johnson and Cummings’ decision to unlawfully suspend parliament in September 2019 in order to evade democratic scrutiny of their hopelessly flawed “Oven Ready” Brexit deal.

⚫ The appointment of Priti Patel as Johnson’s Home Secretary, despite the fact that she was forced to resign in 2017 after getting caught red-handed acting as an agent of a foreign state embedded in the UK government, and her plot to divert funds from the UK overseas aid budget into the illegal Israeli military occupation of the Golan Heights.

⚫ The outright Tory refusal to defend the High Court Judges after the “Enemies of the People” Daily Mail headline, and Theresa May’s subsequent decision to hire the author of that outrageous hit piece as one of her closest political advisers.

⚫ Theresa May’s unlawful and sickeningly racist “Hostile Environment” that led to the systematic persecution of black black British citizens, to the extent of thousands being denied jobs, housing, banking services, social security, and medical treatment, and scores of black British citizens even being deported out of the UK altogether.

⚫ Chris Grayling’s unlawful Tribunal Fees, designed to protect bad bosses by pricing low-income workers out of the justice system, with upfront £1,200 fees if they wanted to seek compensation for their mistreatment at work.

⚫ Iain Duncan Smith’s unlawful forced-unpaid-labour schemes, followed by his bizarre attempt to bypass the legal judgement against his lawless behaviour by retroactively rewriting his botched and unlawful legislation so that it would have made sense had it been written that way at the time, which was also subsequently declared unlawful in the courts.

It’s not like the British public had no warning that handing a Tory government a whopping great parliamentary majority would result in the deliberate destruction of law and order in the United Kingdom.

Anyone who has paid even the slightest attention since 2010 knew exactly what would be on the cards, but millions obviously concluded that the ideologically driven destruction of the rule of law, and Britain’s descent towards the status of lawless far-right pariah state would be a price worth paying in return for whatever (probably imaginary) benefit they thought they’d be getting from handing absolute power to the bone-idle, bigoted liar Johnson, and his cabinet of radically right-wing Tory ghouls.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. Access to my online writing will always remain free. If you see some value in what I do, please consider supporting my work with a small donation/subscription.