Today I came across two blog posts that questioned this interpretation of the 1945 general election.
Steve Fielding on Ballots & Bullets argues:
The vast majority certainly supported the implementation of the 1942 Beveridge report and its promise of cradle-to-the-grave social security. Yet those that liked his suggestion of a National Health Service did so largely because they hoped to personally benefit, far fewer looked on it as an act of redistribution. In any case, the Liberal William Beveridge's scheme was a continuation of progressive Edwardian reforms and it entailed welfare payments only just above subsistence. His was not a socialist measure, but one designed to make capitalism work more effectively.And he goes on to say:
The society most people wanted from the 1945 election was a 1930s with jobs, that is, not socialism but reformed capitalism. This would be a private world. As a Labour candidate told his party’s conference in 1945, “two years ago, when I was in Africa, we fell to talking one day about what we hoped to see in the post-war world, and the fellow who put the point best was the one who said that he wanted to settle down with his wife in a cottage, with the kiddies, and to enjoy chocolates and looking after the chickens”.While David Boyle, who was on Start the Week with Loach this morning, arrives at a characteristically penetrating critique:
The idea that somehow the Labour creation was betrayed or destroyed by Mrs Thatcher, and we must look back to 1945 and do it all over again, is really nonsense. The truth is that these huge institutions carried the seeds of their own destruction. They carried the Thatcherite revolution within them, because they did not work - they disempowered, undermined communities, poured scorn on self-help, worshipped professionals, and never asked for anything back - which meant they failed to build community around them.As he says, whatever public services now need, it does not involve going back to 1945.