Clem’s post-war Britain welcomed taxation with open arms. What’s changed?
Let’s get one thing straight. I refer to the late, great Clement Attlee as ‘Clem’, because that’s how my nan and granddad referred to him. They would sit in their top-floor flat in Streatham, putting the world to rights and one of the names that cropped up time and time again was Clem’s. They hardly even mentioned his surname. As far as they were concerned, if they were talking politics and mentioned the name Clem, anyone listening knew exactly who they were banging on about…and they did.
These were two people who’d lived through real poverty and seen lives destroyed by a war that forced the less-fortunate even further into deprivation. They’d witnessed the turnaround under Clement Attlee’s Labour government and could feel nothing but gratitude and respect for the man.
During the Second World War, Attlee had been part of the coalition set up by Winston Churchill, the Conservative Prime Minister at the time. Major party leaders stood together to support each other, while the usual political arguments were temporarily shelved.
It was expected Churchill’s great work during the Second World War would win him the next election, but it didn’t. The Labour Party promoted their vision of a better future so thoroughly, the demoralized British public could see no other option but to vote for Clement Attlee and cross their fingers they’d done the right thing.
If you’d ever spoken to my nan and granddad, you’d think Clem had single-handedly set up the Welfare State and built every NHS hospital with his bare hands. Of course, he didn’t…but he supported William Beveridge’s recommendations and ensured they were put into practice with unfailing determination.
You have to hand it to Clem, though…he had the very difficult task of convincing a nation, who were already suffering immense financial hardship, they should give up a proportion of their wages to help others as well as themselves. How on earth did he do that?
The truth is…community spirit was still alive and kicking in those days. People already felt compelled to help others, in the hope their kindness would be returned in the future if they needed it. William Beveridge’s proposals were seen as a more organized and effective way of doing it.
As new measures were put into place, the nation continued to harbour great respect for Clem and his Labour government. They saw each payment of tax actually do some good. They saw each other surviving in far better living conditions and witnessed less friends becoming sick and having no alternative but to wait to die.
Poverty back then meant having nothing with no means to change it. Anybody prepared to help, even in a small way, received gratitude and respect.
Poverty now means something entirely different and some of the definitions that can be found throughout the internet are a huge insult to those who struggled helplessly, with little or no hope, to simply stay alive.
My mum was one of four sisters and, even as young women, they shared one bedroom and slept two to a bed. They felt lucky and would never have referred to themselves as living in poverty. They got up every day and went to work for a basic wage…just so they could continue to live this way.
Of course, nobody wants to live like that. However, as the definition of poverty moves further away from its true meaning, so does our nation’s respect for the system wrongly defining it.
You are deemed to be living in poverty if you lack a socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions. That’s okay, but these days, it basically means…not being able to afford the latest iPhone, fashionable trainers or a daily visit to McDonalds.
Socially acceptable? Compared to what? More to the point…why are a lot of those pleading poverty still buying new phones, still sporting the latest fashions, still buying subscriptions to Xbox Live and still smoking and drinking themselves into debt? A lot of their kids are kitted out in far better gear than mine are! I’m paying for that!
Who’s defining these socially-acceptable living conditions? David Cameron? What would he think of me…owning only one pair of shoes, shaving my own head with a set of dog clippers and staying loyal to a mobile phone that would be more at home in a museum. Yah!…What an absolute pauper!
So…why is it we don’t we respect this government again? I keep forgetting.
As it is, the taxes we pay have a wide range of names, yet rarely go in the direction those names clearly infer. Also, the taxes we’re now forced to pay are not always allocated to assistance we are in dire need of, or even projects we are happy to be funding. We pay what they say because we’ve been brought up to believe the Welfare State has our best interests at heart.
Post-war Britain’s respect for its government was heightened when Clement Attlee committed to eradicating poverty. Now we are told we’re all diving back into it. Now it seems that, even though it’s obvious that billions of pounds are being diverted to the wrong places, we are still being forced to pay more and more dearly for the mistakes being made.
Who’s making these huge financial mistakes? I guess that would be the same people whose services are paid for using the compulsory taxes we cannot legally opt out of. In everyday life, we would not expect to pay for anything in the absence of an invoice. Yet…we are legally bound to hand over any amount the government demands.
There can be no respect for a government that makes terrible mistakes with our money over and over again and there will be no respect for a government that admits such terrible mistakes before arrogantly forcing us to pay for them.
This could very well be the reason a man like Clement Attlee is worthy of the affectionate nickname, Clem. However, although David Cameron hasn’t achieved anywhere near the same affection or respect…he has managed to attract a whole host of descriptive nouns that best describe his abilities.