Festival of hypocrisy as politicians clap for NHS

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and his wife Victoria Alexander ‘clap for the NHS’ on its 72nd anniversary today.

Politicians and celebrities have again been seeking cheap publicity by “clapping for the NHS” this weekend, this time marking the 72nd anniversary of the foundation of the National Health Service.

The official launch of the NHS was on 5th July 1948, following a long political struggle by Aneurin ‘Nye’ Bevan, Health Minister and the most leftwing member of the postwar Labour government.

Just seventeen years earlier Bevan had been on the point of quitting the Labour Party to join rebel Labour minister Sir Oswald Mosley in forming the New Party, which eventually evolved into the British Union of Fascists. In December 1930 Bevan was one of 17 MPs who signed the ‘Mosley Memorandum’ criticising the economic policies of the then Labour government led by Ramsay MacDonald.

Eventually Bevan decided to stick with the Labour Party, partly because (unlike Mosley and most New Party recruits) Bevan admired many of the ‘achievements’ of Stalin’s Soviet Union.

NHS founder ‘Nye’ Bevan had been on the point of joining Sir Oswald Mosley’s New Party, but unlike Mosley, Bevan and his friends saw much to admire in Soviet communism

The formerly close political relationship between Bevan and Mosley tends to be written out of history. Even more embarrassing in the era of ‘Black Lives Matter’ is that Britain in 1948 would never have been able to create an NHS without the more profitable parts of the British Empire.

The Second World War had almost bankrupted Britain, and much of the Empire was actually a financial liability (viz. the disastrous ‘groundnut scheme’ launched in 1947, attempting to create a profitable peanut industry in Tanganyika, now Tanzania). Moreover, it was soon realised that Africans would be incapable of providing large numbers of high-quality soldiers to replace those lost to the Empire after Indian independence.

However there were parts of the world where the British Empire still generated huge profits. In June 1948, just one month before the creation of the NHS, Attlee’s government began a brutal campaign against their fellow socialists in Malaya (now Malaysia) who were in revolt against British rule. Malaya was perhaps the most profitable corner of the Empire, thanks to its tin and rubber industries.

The most notorious exploitation of native resources that helped fund creation of the NHS was Iranian oil. What was then the largest oil refinery in the world had been built just before the First World War at the Iranian port of Abadan by the Anglo-Persian (later Anglo-Iranian) Oil Company, which is now British Petroleum (BP).

By the late 1940s the Iranians were demanding an improvement on the miserly share of profits they received from their own oil industry, which primarily benefited Britain rather than Iran.

This led to a secret plot to remove Iran’s democratically elected nationalist prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh and replace him by a monarchical/military dictatorship under the Shah. The coup plot was instigated under Attlee, though not carried out until he had been succeeded as British Prime Minister by Winston Churchill.

It’s very easy for naive (or not so naive) protestors to demand ‘Black Lives Matter’ and start tearing down statues. But how many of these protestors would be happy to give up their rights to NHS treatment or surrender half their pension – all benefits that they enjoy because earlier generations of Britons, including the ‘democratic socialist’ founders of the NHS, were prepared to exploit the resources of other countries?

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