Tuesday, July 10, 2018

bevan knows I'm miserable nye

It's a few days late for the official anniversary but let me commemorate the 70th birthday of the National Health Service by appointing as Welshman Of The Day its primary architect Aneurin Bevan.

The really interesting thing about the inception of the NHS, a much-beloved institution by all right-thinking people, many of whom are currently rightly concerned for its future, is how unlikely it all was, and how several different things had to align in order for it to happen, any one of which could have scuppered the whole thing by its absence.
  • Bevan's own personal drive, deriving in large part from his Welsh working-class background, was a major factor. The historical narrative which has Great Men standing head and shoulders above their contemporaries and achieving Great Things is generally wrong, or at best a gross over-simplification, but if Bevan hadn't been in the role of Health Secretary at the time, would the changes have been driven through? My friend Ben wrote this article as part of Welsh History Month in 2015 which gives some interesting context.
  • Secondly, the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, the general mood of optimism and brotherly love, perhaps accompanied by a general flattening of the class hierarchy after everyone's shared experience of warfare and existential peril, all of which led to the Labour landslide in the general election of 1945 and a massive political mandate to do a bit of the old socialism. But it was a fairly narrow window of opportunity: Labour won the 1950 general election only narrowly and then lost in 1951 after an ill-conceived snap election designed to increase Labour's slim majority. Clearly no-one would be foolish enough to try a similar gambit nowadays, hahahaha. Imagine!
So what do we conclude? Most obviously that it's very possible none of this would have happened but for the unique set of circumstances that existed in the wake of the Second World War, and therefore: no Hitler, no National Health Service. There, I've said it. Obviously Hitler never lived to see the scheme come to fruition, which is a shame as I gather the NHS leads the world in reconstructive testicular surgery and the treatment of cranial gunshot wounds.

Finally, no blog post mentioning Nye Bevan can fail to address the question of what Nye Bevan would have done in the event of a nuclear holocaust.

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