Attlee Remembered

Attlee Remembered

“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 embracing a festival – an Attlee Festival – framed by a wider public awareness campaign we call ‘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?

Read more on the background and the project here.

Attlee Nation website:


Our first Attlee Festival was hosted by Sands Films Studios, Rotherhithe, London. ‘Attlee Remembered’ took place on 7th and 8th October 2017, marking 50 years since Attlee’s death on 7 October 1967.

ProgrammeWe have a wonderful line-up of contributors for our films, discussions & performance programme. PDF version here.

Contributors biographies (with yet more names TBC).

Single sessions on Eventbrite.

Films are free (but must be booked), discussions £3, Theatre £5.

Weekend pass to all events £10 and only available by calling the Box Office on 020 7231 2209.

Like & Share our new Facebook Page and follow us on Twitter at @attlee_nation.

Sands Films  
82 St Marychurch Street
London SE16 4HZ



‘If you’ve got money, you vote in … if you haven’t got money, you vote out’

Great piece.

For six years now, often with my colleague John Domokos, I have been travelling around the UK for our video series Anywhere But Westminster, ostensibly covering politics, but really trying to divine the national mood, if such a thing exists. I look back, and find all sorts of auguries of what has just happened. As an early warning, there was the temporary arrival of the British National party in electoral politics from 2006 onwards, playing on mounting popular anger about immigration from the EU “accession states”, in the midst of Gordon Brown’s “flexible” job market, and a mounting housing crisis.

A few years later, we met builders in South Shields who told us that their hourly rate had come down by £3 thanks to new arrivals from eastern Europe; the mother in Stourbridge who wanted a new school for “our kids”; the former docker in Liverpool who looked at rows of empty warehouses and exclaimed, “Where’s the work?”
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The decline of Britain; EU

Because we had survived the war intact we did not realise fully the motives or strength of the European search for unity. We underestimated the recovery powers of the continental countries and the great boost that could be given to their industrial development by membership of a common market. We overlooked one of the prime lessons of our own history, that we had been able to spearhead the industrial revolution in the eighteenth century, not because of our size—we only had a third of the population of France—but because, at a time when the countries of the continent were fragmented by internal tolls and tariff barriers, we were the biggest single market in Europe. We did not perceive fully how the Commonwealth would evolve and the reduced political and economic role that we would have in it. (For instance, we were taken aback when, in 1957, our proposal for a British-Canadian free trade area was turned down by Ottawa.) Continuing for long to believe that we had a unique part to play on the world scene because of our participation in Churchill’s three interlocking circles, we were concerned that too close a relationship with Europe would weaken our influence in the other two circles, those of the Commonwealth and America. Continue reading

“I want us to surpass even the Attlee government for radical reform”

Mr Corbyn called it “a new economics”. Mr McDonnell described his aim as being no less than the “fundamental business of reforming capitalism”.

So today was big on vision, but short on new detail. Perhaps no surprise with the next general election, in all likelihood, not until 2020.

No one can doubt their ambition: “I want us to surpass even the Attlee government for radical reform,” the shadow chancellor said, a reference to the administration that founded the NHS.

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