The Dog Days of another Labour Government

I can remember the dog days of the exhausted, feuding Attlee government; days of foul weather, economic despair, nasty little foreign wars, and the contrast between utopian socialist dreams and the brutal reality of cuts and shortages. The near senile Churchill did not seem to be the ideal candidate to lead a modernised Conservative Party but the whole nation was desperate for change. Everyone was totally fed up with the lofty exaltations of wealthy Etonian socialists such as Dalton or weird aliens such as Cripps. Like New Labour the Attlee government was stuffed with boffins, planners and wonks few of whom had ever had a real job. Then as now people were tempted by Tory promises to encourage ‘hard work and thrift’, to ‘cut out all unnecessary government expenditure, simplify the administrative machine, and prune waste and extravagance in every department,’ and to ‘restore to local government the confidence and responsibility it has lost under socialism’. Yet I think the greatest difference between then and now was that no-one doubted Attlee’s ethical integrity. He would never have accepted freebies in Italian castles from international criminals nor surrounded himself with thugs like Campbell or McBride, or, worst of all, shed tears on national television. Gordon Brown ludicrously invokes the spirit of the Attlee years but the fact is that the economic shambles he has created after 13 years would have made Labour’s greatest prime minister ashamed of him.

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