KEN Loach believes that it was important to tell the story depicted in his documentary The Spirit of 45 before it is “written out of history”.
The film, which previewed at Derby QUAD last week prior to its opening today, is an account of the Labour party’s victory in the postwar general election, and prime minister Clement Atlee’s subsequent programme of nationalisation.
It is a time about which I knew little, and though I sensed that rose-tinted spectacles may have been perched on the end of the 76-year-old’s nose, if not looked through completely, it does seem to have been a gloriously hopefuly era.
There was a movement, inspired and fought by the working classes and aided by Minister of Health Aneurin Bevan, to use the terrible experiences of the second world war to prevent the country slipping back into the depression of the 1930s.
That movement’s success ended dangerously exploitative conditions in heavy industry, rebuilt poor housing and established a free-to-all medical service.
Britain is in the midst of another recession, but Loach does not see the current Labour Party doing anything as brave as their predecessors.
He said: “The big question is: do you try and change the Labour Party or do you start a new one?
“For what it’s worth, my feelings are that the Labour Party is beyond reform and that we need a new party from the left to start again.
“But a number of different things need to happen – all the different groups on the left need to come together – there’s no use raising a flag if only a few follow.
“We also need one or two unions to turn the money off to Labour, because as long as they are funding them not to restore trade union rights and not to defend the NHS it will be very difficult to build an alternative.
“A lot of people want to see the NHS preserved, and want to see the railways come back into public ownership, and want to stop hitting the poor by cutting benefits, and want to stop illegal wars, and want to defend the environment.
“There’s such a wide agreement, that if there were a viable alternative you could have confidence that you weren’t wasting your efforts in supporting it.
“It could do for the left what UKIP is doing for the right.”
All the work done in 1945 was undone when Thatcher came into power in 1979 and the Conservative Party began privatising the country, which boosted the coffers of the men in charge of these private companies, but has been an unmitigated failure for ordinary people.
And with business now the driving force in politics, Loach believes that neither the right or the left will want to remember that period.
He said: “What happened after the war was that spirit of collaboration was imbedded into the way we tried to re-establish the economy.
“Later, from 1979 onwards, the economy was based on the opposite – on the economy, the free market and individual pursuit of wealth.
“It’s a period which none of the political parties have any interest in remembering because now politics are about clearing the way for business.
“So they’re not going to want to remember when we based our economy on the idea of common ownership.
“It’s being written out of history.
“The people who were active then are in their mid-80s now or even older, so I thought it was important to collect their memories before – and I’m trying to think of a delicate way of saying this – they are no longer with us.
“We are at the culmination of the final sacking of that project as the National Health Service – the jewel in the crown – is under threat.
“You wonder whether it’s too late to stop it.
“The working class could change history tomorrow if they had a collective will.
“And that’s what is being attacked by politicians – there is an intention to erode people’s sense of their own class.
“There is a massive political vacuum on the left where no-one is putting forward these ideas.
“They might have a rhetoric that says they want to help but no-one is articulating the anger or the interests of the ordinary people.”
While the sea changes that came in 1945 were driven by the war recently fought, Loach believes that the banking crisis of 2008 could or should be enough of a catalyst for another movement.
He said: “I think it’s tragic that we have lost what we built.
“Since 2008 and the crash, the richest 1,000 people have seen their wealth increase by £125billion, while the poorest 10 per cent – when these cuts go through – will see the average income decrease by 30 per cent.
“They are living on nothing anyway.
“If that’s not a catastrophe big enough for us to get energised, then something is wrong.
“We can’t just sit around and wait for another world war.”