On 26th July 1945 Winston Churchill lost contact with the people he lead to victory in the war against Hitler and thereby lost the general election to Clement Attlee who lead the Labour Party to a landslide victory. Labour increased their seats in Parliament increasing from 164 to 393 giving them a majority of 159 seats over all other parties including the Conservative who limped home with only 213 seats. Following the announcement of the results Churchill went to Buckingham Palace to hand in his resignation and Attlee was invited by King George VI shortly afterwards to form a new Government. Churchill had held the positions of Prime Minister, First Lord of the Admiralty and Minister of Defence since 10th May 1940 and was disappointed with the result but understood that the British people needed a different kind of leader in peace. Churchill expressed his “profound gratitude for the unflinching, unswerving support” given to him by the people of Britain during the war years.
The people wanted Labour to implement the Welfare State which the Liberal economist William Beveridge had promised in his 1942 report in which he identified five giant evils in society: squalor, ignorance, want, idleness, and disease. He proposed widespread reform to the system of social welfare to rid the country of these evils and proposed increases to National Insurance to pay for them. The reforms included the creation of a National Health Service (NHS) which would provide health care for everybody based on clinical need rather than the ability to pay.
On 5th July 1948 the NHS was created out of the ideal that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth. When it was launched Minister of Health Aneurin Bevan announced that it was based on three core principles:
- that it meet the needs of everyone
- that it be free at the point of delivery
- that it be based on clinical need, not ability to pay
These three principles have guided the development of the NHS over the last 68 years and remain at its core. Churchill‘s loss in 1945 was a necessary precursor to our current welfare state and must surely have been a source of satisfaction to him in his later years!