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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7 comments:

Karen Roberts said...

That he founded the NHS is enough to warrant the statement "Why Clement Atlee was the greatest PM of the 20th Century". It's conception was brilliant. Unfortunately, the present day politicians are not supporting it the way they should.

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