The Myth of the Sainted Attlee
No, this is not my long-promised lecture of the above title. I am under-qualified to deliver it, in any case. Suffice it to say that those who idolise Clement Attlee as a way of criticising New Labour have got the wrong man.
He says he is scunnered – “only the Scots word will do” – by the film:
First, for the sheer falsity of its depiction of the 1940s, whose true emotional-political textures are so much more complicated and interesting than Loach’s fairy story allows. (The rich evidence is in David Kynaston’s mind-blowing Austerity Britain, 1945–51). From the intellectual roots of Labour’s program, which the historian Gareth Stedman Jones once called “the last flowering of Edwardian liberalism,” to the variations in public experience and mood in the hard-pressed postwar years, this period is traduced by Loach’s comforting fantasy. This matters, because historical understanding — and any change-making democratic project — can only be built on truth.
Loach’s anti-left* propaganda gives no idea how much Attlee was hated by the equivalents of those who today lionise him.
There are three more reasons Hayes is disgusted. I know people often say this, but read it all.
*Anti-left: the conservative movement that is anti-American, anti-capitalist, “anti-war” and not left-wing at all.Tagged in: clement attlee, Ken Loach, labour history
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