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the labour party did not start the nhs :
socialist myth-making

the problems with socialism

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The Labour Party did not start the NHS is one of a number of documents analysing dysfunctional social, or group, behaviour in modern society.
abelard lays to rest the urban myth connecting Socialists (a.k.a. the Labour Party) with the National Health Service.

Related briefing document: a comparison between international health services

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britain’s welfare state was whose idea did you say?
on the origins of the National Health Service
labour never changes - churchill 28 january 1950

britain’s welfare state was whose idea did you say?

“The social services taken all in all, were the most advanced in the world in 1939, and the Social Democrats in Sweden, the Labour Party in New Zealand, and the New Deal Democrats in the United States, were trying to bring about many of the improvements which Conservatism took for granted.”
The Road To 1945: British Politics and the Second World War by Paul Addison, 1975, revised 1994, p.33

Marker at

The Beveridge Report on welfare, the Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Social Insurance and Allied Services 1942,

  • was commissioned by Winston Churchill,
  • was produced by a Liberal,
  • was adopted by all three parties in their 1945 manifestos:

    from the Conservative manifesto:
    "The health services of the country will be made available to all citizens. Everyone will contribute to the cost, and no one will be denied the attention, the treatment or the appliances he requires because he cannot afford them. We propose to create a comprehensive health service covering the whole range of medical treatment from the general practitioner to the specialist, and from the hospital to convalescence and rehabilitation."

    from the Liberal manifesto:
    "People cannot be happy unless they are healthy. The Liberal aim is a social policy which will help to conquer disease by prevention as well as cure, through good housing, improved nutrition, the lifting of strains and worries caused by fear of unemployment, and through intensified medical research. The Liberal Party’s detailed proposals for improved health services would leave patients free to choose their doctor, for the general practitioner is an invaluable asset in our social life."

    from the Labour Party manifesto:
    "By good food and good homes, much avoidable ill-health can be prevented. In addition the best health services should be available free for all. Money must no longer be the passport to the best treatment.

    "In the new National Health Service there should be health centres where the people may get the best that modern science can offer, more and better hospitals, and proper conditions for our doctors and nurses. More research is required into the causes of disease and the ways to prevent and cure it."
    [Source: Setting the Record Straight]

This report by William Beveridge was building on the welfare system already developed by Conservatives and Liberals in the 1930s, which at the time was regarded as among the most advanced in the world.

Winston Churchill, on reading through the Beveridge Report, in early 1943 told the war cabinet that the plan
"constitutes an essential  part of any postwar scheme of national betterment". (Manchester and Reid, p.620)

Unfortunately, Clement Attlee, Herbert Morrison and others tried to use their opportunity in order to take credit for what all parties intended to implement after the war. At the same time, they were trying to emplace a centralised socialist state that could never be removed.

From the Beveridge report
22. The second view is that whatever money is required for provision of insurance benefits, so long as they are needed, should come from a Fund to which the recipients have contributed and to which they may be required to make larger contributions if the Fund proves inadequate. The plan adopted since 1930 in regard to prolonged unemployment and sometimes suggested for prolonged disability, that the State should take this burden off insurance, in order to keep the contribution down, is wrong in principle. The insured persons should not feel that income for idleness, however caused, can come from a bottomless purse. The Government should not feel that by paying doles it can avoid the major responsibility of seeing that unemployment and disease are reduced to the minimum. The place for direct expenditure and organisation by the State is in maintaining employment of the labour and other productive resources of the country, and in preventing and combating disease, not in patching an incomplete scheme of insurance.

27. Social insurance should aim at guaranteeing the minimum income needed for subsistence. What the actual rates of benefit and contribution should be in terms of money cannot be settled now, and that for two reasons. First, it is impossible today to forecast with assurance the level of prices after the war. Second, determination of what is required for reasonable human subsistence is to some extent a matter of judgment; estimates on this point change with time, and generally, in a progressive community, change upwards. The procedure adopted to deal with this problem has been: first, from consideration of subsistence needs, as given by impartial expert authorities, to determine the weekly incomes which would have been sufficient for subsistence in normal cases at prices ruling in 1938 ; second, to derive from these the rates appropriate to a cost of living about 25% above that of 1938. These rates of benefit, pension and grant are set out in para. 401 as provisional post-war rates; by reference to them it is possible to set forth simply what appears to be the most appropriate relation between different benefits and what would be the cost of each benefit and of all benefits together ; it is possible to show benefits in relation to contributions and taxation. But the provisional rates themselves are not essential. If the value of money when the scheme comes into operation differs materially from the assumptions on which the provisional rates are based, the rates could be changed without affecting the scheme in any important particular. If social policy should demand benefits on a higher scale than subsistence, the whole level of benefit and contribution rates could be raised without affecting the structure of the scheme. If social policy or financial stringency should dictate benefits on a lower scale, benefits and contributions could be lowered, though not perhaps so readily or without some adjustments within the scheme.

Marker at

“We enter this campaign not merely to get rid of the Tory majority - that will not be enough for our task. It will not be sufficient to get a parliamentary majority. We want the complete extinction of the Tory Party and 25 years of Labour government, for we cannot do in five years what requires to be done.”
[Aneurin Bevan, 21 May 1945 in a speech to the Labour Party Conference at Blackpool, as the Labour Party tried to turn Britain into a centralised socialist state.]

“The moment to strike is the moment of taking power when the government is freshly elected and assured of its support. the blow struck must be a fatal one and not merely designed to wound and to turn a sullen and obstructive opponent into an active and deadly enemy.”
[Clement Attlee, approx. 1934
from The Road To 1945, 1975, p.48]

Britain is still struggling to recover from Attlee's fatal blow.

on the origins of the National Health Service

Setting the Record Straight: Labour and the NHS is a useful piece of research into the three party manifestos of 1945,

"The[....] exaggerated claims that the NHS owes its whole creation to the Labour party are only possible through the most colossal ignorance and misrepresentation of the past, of what was a cross-party consensus."

However, most of the author's other comments are somewhat scrappy.

I cannot accept that the Labour Party was 'not socialist'. The Labour Party was always Socialist. For the Socialist, 'Left' means 'the more extreme part of our party', whereas 'Right' tends to mean the less extreme among our extremists. As with any religion, the world outside just does not exist beyond a vague and hazy miasma.

In 1945 and ofttimes since, the 'moderate' wing of the Labour Party has been the unions. It is the constituency parties that have been even more extreme and, thus, 'Left' in the internal dogmas.

At around the turn of the 19th century, the Liberal Party split into State Liberals and old-time Liberals, a confused disease from which they still suffer. It is the State Liberals that can be characterised as Socialists, and they came into close alliance with the Fabians/Labour/Socialist parties (multiple leftist parties including Communists). This led to the destruction and confusion of serious Liberalism, and the collapse of the Liberal Party.

This problem has led the United Kingdom Liberal Parties to be muddle-headed ever since.

Winston Churchill was acting with the Liberal Party from about 1904-1924. Within that coalition of different types of Liberals - Radical, State, Gladstonian. Churchill was regarded as a Radical Liberal, as was Lloyd George. They worked to bring in welfare to the poor.

Marker at

This second linked article on The National Health Service Act is either deliberately confused or badly researched.

The issue was not over the NHS, it was over a complete government takeover. As usual, the Conservatives have proven correct and many of the interferences were subsequently overturned.

For instance, there were dozens or more of charitably backed nursing organisations such as Macmillan Nurses. On the other hand, the Labour government back then backed down on their attempts to make doctors into government servants, thus medics are private contractors. The infamous boast of Aneurin Bevan was that he had "stuffed their mouths with gold".

The usual Socialist talk implied that there was no medical service before that time, but at the time over 2,500 voluntary and local hospitals were grabbed by the government.

Dishonest Socialists have tried to make much of Conservative objections to the legislation. However, the Tory Party's objections were not to the health service but to the Labour Party's attempt to set up a centralised state monopoly.

labour never changes - churchill 28 january 1950

The post-war Labour government nationalised about 20% of British industry. This nationalising continued until Labour ran into the buffers of public reaction and resistance.

The following was reported widely across the world. I have yet to find a British or a text source. This version was reported in the Toledo Express of 29th January, 1950, pp. 1 & 6.

Winston Churchill on the Labour Party, 28th January, 1950

"We now approach the crisis to which every spendthrift comes when he has used up everything he can lay his hands on, everything he can beg or borrow and must face the reckoning of hard facts."

Mr Churchill said the Conservatives supported the policy of the Marshall plan aid "to keep us going until conditions of world trade were restored."

But he said, the Labour government put "advancement of the doctrines of Socialism above all other considerations."

"Owing to their follies and wrongful action, a great part of all the loans and gifts we have received from abroad has been spent not upon the import of foodstuffs," Mr. Churchill said. "Instead much of this previous aid was lavishly frittered away in American films and tobacco and in large quantities of fruits which, however desirable as indulgences, were not indispensable to our recovery.
[The prime complaint was that the Marshall Aid loans were being used to pursue nationalisation, and this was part of that which soured the inclination of the USA to continue to support the UK. The USA did not much appreciate funding the loans in order to forward socialism!]

Mr. Churchill said the Labour government in four and a half years spent almost £17,000,000,000.
[$47,600,000,000 at the recently devalued rate. Clement Attlee had just, in 1949, devalued the pound by 30%, from $4.08 to $2.80. This spending amounted to between £1 to 2 trillion at modern values (2015).
The loans were finally paid back and cleared from the country's books in 2006.]

He said that British taxation "is the highest in the world and even stands higher today than in the worst years of the war.

"With the immense aid given by the U.S. and our dominions overseas, there was no reason why we should not have got back by now to solvency, security and independence." said Mr. Churchill.

"This has been denied us not only by incompetence and maladministration of the Socialist government and their wild extravagance, but even more by the spirit of class hatred which they have spread throughout the land, and the costly and wasteful nationalisation of a fifth of our industries."

Opposes Socialist Concept 

Mr. Churchill said that the "Socialist concept of an all-powerful state" is "odious and repellent to every friend of freedom.

"So far, we are only at the first stage in this evil journey." said Mr. Churchill. "but already enterprise, daring and initiative are crippled. Regulations increasingly take the place of statutes passed by parliament."

Mr. Churchill said the Labour Party election manifesto - or platform - contains an "effective design or plot - to obtain a power over their fellow countrymen such as no British government has ever sought before."


The Road To 1945: British Politics and the Second World War by Paul Addison

The last lion : Winston Spencer Churchill,
volume 3: Defender of the realm 1940-1965
by William Manchester and Paul Reid

Little, Brown and Company; 2012; hbk; 1,232 pp.
ISBN-10: 0316547700
ISBN-13: 978-0316547703
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Bantam; 2013; pbk; 1,200 pp.
ISBN-10: 0345548639
ISBN-13: 978-0345548634
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The Road To 1945: British Politics and the Second World War by Paul Addison

The Road To 1945: British Politics and the Second World War
by Paul Addison

Pimlico, revised edition, pbk, 1994

ISBN-10: 0712659323
ISBN-13: 978-0712659321
£16.99 [] {advert}

Kindle edition

Vintage Digital; 2nd Revised edition, 2011

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