D-Day and the Creation of the NHS

NHS D-Day pic

Earlier today I reblogged Mike’s article attacking the censorship of one of the posters to the Labour Forum. This person, agewait, had had their posts repeatedly removed from the Forum and been told that they were ‘very offensive’. They had created the image reproduced here at the top of this very post, showing the courageous D-Day servicemen about to do battle, and linked it to Harry Leslie Smith’s attack on the government’s reform of the NHS. The Forum immediately deleted the posts, and responded to agewait’s inquiry why they were doing this with the statement:

“D-Day and the NHS have nothing to do with each other. Whatsoever. Any photos trying to link today’s political issues with D-Day are offensive and will be deleted immediately.”

Agewait himself gave his account of what happened in a comment to Mike’s article:

Thank you for highlighting this issue. I am the creator and apparent antagonist by posting this and another related post on the so called ‘Labour Forum’. I was angered by their actions and told them so (without swearing) – I asked for them to be reinstated, but I was threatened with a ban – So I told the jumped-up, swaggering b*****d just what I thought about him and his tin-pot political correctness, knowing full well I would be banned. I was extremely angry with them for initially removing the posts and angered more by the explanation which was not only inaccurate but extremely patronising. I am not anti-labour, but it does appear to be anti-working class… It is time it realised the people didn’t leave them, they left us…. disengaged chatterers…. and out of touch with the passion people have for the injustices against so many people who have witnessed a blitzkrieg attack upon their NHS and their Social Security system with so many, too many so called labour MPs standing by whilst others cash in on their financial interest in the Private Health sector…. Thanks again – Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere. I feel they should apologise for removing the posts – I don’t expect or wish for a personal apology not after sharing a small section of my anger and disgust with their outrageous tactics. Adrian Wait.

The Labour Forum’s censorship is wrong and completely ahistorical. Mike has already pointed out in his article that the Beveridge Report setting up the NHS was in response to concerns about the victories of the German army at the start of the War, which drove us out of France and back to Britain. The Germans were better nourished and healthier, with the support of old age pensions, unemployment and sickness insurance brought in by Bismarck in the 1870s. When the Liberals first introduced these measures shortly before the First World War, the Germans boasted that the Reich had already had them for over forty years.

Richard Titmuss in his 1950 Problems of Social Policy, which linked the creation of the welfare state very firmly to the experience and necessities of providing for the civilian population during the War. G.C. Peden in his British Economic and Social Policy: Lloyd George to Margaret Thatcher, states

Titumuss argued that the hazards of war were universal and that prewar principles of selectivity could no longer be applied. Bomb victims could not be treated like recipients of poor relief. The Unemployment Assistance Board, which became simply the Assistance Board, was used to pay out hardship allowances, rather than leave these to local Public Assistance Committees, which were associated in the public mind with the Poor Law. When inflation reduced the value of old age pensions, the Assistance Board was empowered to pay supplementary pensions based on need, and by 1941 the Board was dealing with ten times as many pensioners as unemployed men. As Minister of Labour, Bevin insisted on abolishing the household means test, and the Determination of Needs Act of 1941 substituted an assumed contribution from non-dependent members of a family. Titmuss stressed cross-party support for welfare policies. According to him (pp. 506-17), the condition of inner city children evacuated to more prosperous areas shocked public opinion and moved the Government to take ‘positive steps’. Cheap or free school meals and milk were made available to all children and not, as hitherto, only to the ‘necessitous’. Free milk, orange juice and cod liver oil were provided for all expectant mothers and for children under five years. In all these ways, Titmuss argued, the ‘war-warmed impulse of people for a more generous society’ created favourable conditions for planning ‘social reconstruction’ after the war. (pp. 135-6).

Titmuss’ view has now been criticised, as Titmuss was excluded studying plans for post-War policy, and so his view did not necessarily correspond to the government’s actual intentions. Peden notes that the outbreak of the War halted slum clearance, house building, and may have delayed the extension of national insurance to workers’ families and dependence and the introduction of family allowances. The Tories own Research Department had been worried about their own chances of winning elections before the War, and so had suggested including the above measures in their manifesto. On the other hand, the TUC had opposed Family Allowances, as they feared this would allow employers to pay low wages, and there was little support for them from the government. (p. 135).

Peden does state that the War brought a massive expansion of state hospital provision, and that the government agreed with the Beveridge Report’s recommendation that there should be a free health service, while acknowledging that the Tories and the British Medical Association also wished to preserve private practice and the charity hospitals:

For all its reservations on Beveridge’s main proposals, the Government did agree in principle with his assumption that there should be a comprehensive health service available to all, without any conditions of insurance contributions. The trouble was that it proved to be impossible during the war for the details of such a service to be agreed, either between political parties or with the interest groups involved. Certainly was had increased the state’s role. Greatly exaggerated prewar estimates of numbers of casualties in air raids had led to the provision of 80,000 Emergency Hospital beds, compared with 78,000 beds in voluntary hospitals and 320,000 in local authority hospitals. Moreover, the Emergency Hospital Service gradually extended its operations from war causaulties to treatment of sick people transferred from inner city hospitals and then to other evacuees. In discussions in 1943-45 on a future national health service, however, both Conservative ministers and the British Medical Association showed themselves to be determined to safeguard private practice and the independence of the voluntary hospitals. In particular, there were deep differences between successive Conservative ministers of health, Ernest Brown and Henry Willink, who were responsible for health service in England and Wales, and the Labour Secretary of State for Scotland, Tom Johnston, who was responsible for health services north of the border. For example, Johnston successfully opposed the idea of maintenance charges for patients in hospital. The 1944 White Paper on A National Health Service (CMd 6502), which was signed by Willink and Johnston, left much undecided and was avowedly only a consultative document.

Peden then goes on to state that there is little evidence that the War created a lasting consensus in favour of the Welfare State. He does, however, agree that the experience of the war created a more universalist approach to social problems, and that it led to the main political parties meeting on a ‘Butskellite’ centre. (pp. 142-3). He considers instead that the solutions recommended by the Wartime government were merely attempts to deal with temporary insecurity caused by the War.

Nevertheless, the War had led to the demand for the creation of the NHS, and the massive expansion in state hospital provision. And the Labour party played on the desire to create a better society for the servicemen and women, who had fought so hard against Fascism and the Nazi menace, as shown in the poster below.

War Labour Poster

The Tories too, have had absolutely no qualms about using images from WW2 in their election propaganda. I can remember their 1987 election broadcast being awash with images of dog-fighting Spitfires, ending with an excited voice exclaiming ‘It’s great to be great again’. All while Thatcher was doing her level best to destroy real wages and smash Britain as a manufacturing nation in the interests of the financial sector. The satirist Alan Coren drily remarked that the broadcast showed that the War was won by ‘the Royal Conservative Airforce’, and stated that it was highly ironic that in reality all the servicemen went off and voted Labour.

All this seems to have been lost on Labour Forum, which suggests that the mods in charge actually don’t know much about Socialism or the creation of the NHS. You could even wonder if they were actually Labour at all. If they were, then it certainly looks like a Blairite group, afraid that linking D-Day and the origins of the NHS will disrupt its part privatisation introduced by Blair. Many of the firms involved in this were American, and there is certainly massive hostility to any inclusion of the NHS as one of the great achievements of British history by the transatlantic extreme Right. They were fuming, for example, at Danny Boyle’s inclusion of the NHS in the historical tableaux at the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics. The censors over at Labour Forum seem to reflect this mentality, rather than anything genuinely and historically Labour. It’s time the Right-wing censors over at Labour Forum were finally shown the door, and a proper historical perspective and pride taken in the NHS, one of the great legacies left by the people, who fought so bravely to keep Europe free.

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6 Responses to “D-Day and the Creation of the NHS”

  1. Mike Sivier Says:

    Reblogged this on Vox Political and commented:
    The Beast’s follow-up to my D-Day article goes into further detail than I could to prove that our victory in World War II and the creation of the NHS and the welfare state are inextricably linked together. We Won The War To Have These Things. And for 30 years afterwards, it was an instinctive part of Being British.
    It is only since the Thatcherite revisionists turned up to bastardise history in the 1970s and onwards that people have been told to think differently.
    How about we change that back again?

  2. Methusalada Says:

    I’m attempting to follow this discussion ,but firstly who or what is this “Labour Forum ” that you keep on about ? I can’t seem to find anything about this Labour Forum on the internet.
    Secondly their are some wide gaps of info missing from 1946 to 1987 that I suggest you have not filled. I shall attempt to give a personal observation as a lad born in 1941 to 1984. However time & age bears down upon my energies to give a fuller explanation for the present ” ! shall be back “

  3. D-Day and the Creation of the NHS | Welfare, Di... Says:

    […] Earlier today I reblogged Mike's article attacking the censorship of one of the posters to the Labour Forum. This person, agewait, had had their posts repeatedly removed from the Forum and been tol…  […]

  4. lallygag26 Says:

    Hi all..on the subject of Labour’s complicity in the destruction of the NHS and its part in the revisionist history of the Welfare State, I’d like to add this chilling little detail. Whilst out and about campaigning for the National Health Action Party I bumped into two Labour people (Party, not just supporters). When I challenged them on Labour’s record on the NHS I was shocked to find that I had to defend the basic founding 1948 principles against them their position. They said, ‘Explain what’s wrong with private healthcare involvement in the NHS in principle. Surely if they can provide cost effective high quality service then we’d be getting a better deal for the taxpayer?”

    For them the (false) economic argument trumps all. The belief that the private sector provides quality at cost with better management skills is the myth propagated and believed by the Blairite/Mandelson transAtlantic crew.

    I shan’t go into detail of all that followed. It was way too depressing. It is difficult in any way at all to associate this kind of thinking with the concept of the Labour Party as generally understood. One of the crushing moments was when they flourished the ace in their pack – Mid Staffs. How, they asked, could I defend a public service that had produced that ‘horror’, ‘all those deaths’? They clearly aren’t swayed by mere evidence, preferring tabloid headlines instead. They were deaf to all refutations of the Myth of Midstaffs. May I repeat, for those in denial, these were Westminster people, not ordinary members.

    I do not exaggerate when I say I wept when I got home.

    The National Health Action Party, by the way, believes that health and the social determinants of health (housing, education…most domestic policy) should be at the heart of all decisions for the welfare of the people.

    The NHS represents far more than medical treatment. It represents a civilised and caring foundation for society and it was a magnificent and magnanimous phoenix arising from the ashes of war. It is also represents £100bn per year of our tax contributions. It is both the antithesis of the market and a magnet for their profit seeking. That is why it is being destroyed. We will pay the price in more ways than one.

  5. amnesiaclinic Says:

    Reblogged this on amnesiaclinic and commented:
    Please read lallygag’s comment…

  6. samara4baghad Says:

    Reblogged this on Samara4baghad's Blog.

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