Was Atlee a truly revolutionary PM?
A revolution is defined as forcible overthrow of a government or social order for a new system. Atlee did not do this in my opinion. Atlee and the Labour party were in power post World War II, for six years. In these six years they introduced many reforms. Whether these reforms were revolutionary is very debatable. Perhaps, the most ‘revolutionary’ reform that Labour introduced was the NHS. Although there was liberal influence and consensus between the parties over welfare, the clear historical fact remains that Atlee’s Labour party introduced this. The public were in dire need of better healthcare – especially those who couldn’t afford it. Unfortunately, the majority of the population after the war were still living on a very small income and not many people in society could afford health services. When Aneurin Bevan, the Minister of Health had the task of planning and implementing the NHS, many people were against it because they thought of the NHS as a ‘nanny state’ some right wing members of society also saw the NHS as a communist idea. It was compared to communism because many people thought that because all medical treatment would be provided free of charge there would be no limit to the number of people visiting doctors and nurses. This would lead to people coming in for trivial complaints, e.g. dandruff. This was known as the ‘dandruff syndrome’. Doctors, the BMA (British Medical Association) were also very much against this because doctors did not wish to become ‘mere salaried servants’ and they saw the NHS as a form of nationalisation which treated the medical profession as if it was an industry. The opposition to the NHS is not what makes it revolutionary however. What makes it revolutionary is the fact that the British public had never seen anything like this before – a government funded welfare system intended for everyone regardless of class or position in society. Although it was viewed both negatively and...
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