“Charity is a cold grey loveless thing. If a rich man wants to help the poor, he should pay his taxes gladly, not dole out money at a whim”
— Clement Attlee
This is a project developed by TPNS to mount an annual Atlee Festival framed by a wider public awareness campaign – ‘Attlee Nation’. Intended for all generations, it wants to illustrate how, 70 years ago, politicians did push back powerful vested interests for a caring social democracy as Clement Attlee’s government oversaw the largest and most wide-ranging domestic social reform programme. Despite being in the most difficult of times, his 1945-51 administration borrowed, invested and nationalised in order to lay down the foundation for the welfare state and the NHS; expanding public housing and revitalising core industries. All this delivered a rapid rise in living standards, decreasing inequality and growing prosperity.
“Attlee’s political genius was to give people a sense of hope, a clear route map out of depression, war and austerity towards the social and economic justice they craved. His government rebuilt Britain, and the next government needs the political courage to do the same – including giving working people a voice so we can help build a more equal, more democratic country. We must not miss the chance again.”
— Frances O’Grady, Gen Sec TUC (The Guardian, 26/4/13)
Attlee set the ‘terms of reference’ for progressive domestic policy for the next 70 years. While many older citizens know this history, many others do not. What lessons we can bring forward for today’s ‘austerity’ debate? How do we ensure that the ‘terms of reference’ for the next 70 years are just as ambitious; that they rebuild the legacy by pushing back those economic interests that would ultimately destroy this legacy? How do we prize and protect the notion of ‘generosity to the future’ so powerfully embodied in the Attlee administration?
Attlee was “the twentieth century’s greatest prime minister’’ according to an IPSOS-MORI poll of historians and political scientists (2004)
If you have heard of Churchill, then you should also know about Attlee. And if you don’t know much at all, check the history, and ask why?
Our first Attlee Festival is hosted by Sands Films Studios, Rotherhithe, London. ‘Attlee Remembered’ takes place on 7th and 8th October, marking 50 years since Attlee’s death on 7 October 1967.
Read more on the background and the project here.