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<Movie Details
Review
11 March 2013 by Tim Evans

Empowered by the responsibility granted to them during World War II, a generation of working class men and women returned to Blighty determined never to see a return to the squalor of the 1930s.

By a stroke of luck it was also a time when the Labour Party was determined to push through a genuinely socialist manifesto...and they won by a landslide.

With a determination and speed which would be unimaginable now, they pressed ahead with an ambitious mass nationalisation - of the railways, mines, utilities - and, most excitingly of all, a health service that would be available to all.

Director Ken Loach balances his talking heads between left-leaning experts in the field of economics or medicine and salt of the earth working class diehards (plus Tony Benn) who poignantly articulate the depths of poverty from which the welfare state lifted a nation.

It's touching to hear the genuine gratitude felt for something as simple as a council house or discovering that the visit of a doctor to a sick child wasn't going to cost.

However, in the second half of the documentary Loach launches into the offensive, specifically reviling Conservative PM Margaret Thatcher for her ruthless attack on the unions and her wholesale re-nationalisation programme.

In full propagandist flight, he conveniently neglects to mention the likes of Derek Hatton and his Liverpool militant tendency or Arthur Scargill's ballot-less miners' strike. As power-crazed as any Tory grandee, it was they that facilitated the Iron Lady's attack on the welfare state as much as anybody.

It's up to his level-headed contributors to restore equilibrium and justifiably voice concerns for American-style reforms of the NHS or the costly shambles of national rail privatisation (the subject of Loach's overwrought The Navigators).

You pretty much expect Loach to have a pop at Thatcher (in one scene a battered picket asks who granted the police the authority to wantonly mete out violence...and the film cuts to Maggie rejoicing).

However, this is at its strongest when celebrating the simple fairness and basic decency of the welfare state and ends on an optimistic note. Basically, politicians tinker with the NHS at their peril.