Clement attlee

How crises shape government

Crises often exhaust the capacity of governments to renew themselves. All consuming problems do not allow prime ministers to have what Walter Bagehot called ‘mind in reserve’ — and yet future success at the polls depends on it. The vast achievements of the postwar Labour government were largely built on the work of a Liberal in the form of the 1942 Beveridge Report, which most notably recommended a National Health Service. But Attlee was unable to create a new vision of his own during an era of crippling rationing and economic strife. Labour went from winning their first overall majority in 1945 to a very slim majority in 1950. Churchill’s Conservatives

Can Labour capture the spirit of the post-war era?

The right is usually much better than the left at harnessing the awesome power of the folk memories that surround Britain’s heroic second world war struggle. The idea of British exceptionalism at its most evocative moment between 1939 and 1945 was crucial to Brexit and crucial to securing popular backing for the Falklands War a generation earlier too. So for Keir Starmer to base his economic pitch for power not on modern monetary theory or any other piece of leftish guru-jargon, but instead on drawing parallels with the reforming post-war Labour administration of Clement Attlee is smart politics. The Attlee government has a powerful mythology of its own that adds

It was Bevin, not Bevan, who was the real national treasure

On a family holiday almost 40 years ago I visited Winsford, the village on the edge of Exmoor where Ernest Bevin was born (and Boris Johnson was raised). Having read the first book in Alan Bullock’s scholarly three-volume biography, I’d become a convinced Bevinite (not to be confused with the followers of Nye Bevan, his near namesake and bête noire). As it was the centenary of Bevin’s birth I expected to find some kind of commemoration, but there was nothing apart from a faded plaque on the cottage he was born in. I asked the woman serving in the Post Office opposite if I’d missed anything, but she’d never heard

Absorbing and meticulously researched play about Partition: Drawing the Line reviewed

Theatres have taken to the internet like never before. Recorded performances are being made available over the web, many for free. Getting Better Slowly is about a dancer, Adam Pownall, who spent two years fighting Guillain-Barré syndrome. This lucid and enjoyable show (recorded at Lincoln Drill Hall) now looks horribly topical. A young artist, paralysed by a mysterious disease, refuses to surrender and eventually reclaims his vigour and his ability to communicate. That could stand for the profession as a whole. Hampstead Theatre offers a slate of three recorded plays. (Wild and Wonderland were reviewed in The Spectator on 30 June 2016 and 12 July 2014 respectively). Drawing the Line