Over the last three days and nights I have watched Philip Madoc's wonderful warts and all portrayal of Lloyd George in the 1981 BBC series The Life and Times of Lloyd George. It finishes with Churchill's oration in the House of Commons where he acknowledged Lloyd George's creation of national insurance, the pension and the basic foundation of the modern welfare state. He also finally shackled the Lords into respect for the will of the people expressed through the commons. It was another Welshman, and another orator Aneurin Bevan who built on those foundations with the National Health Service. They represent the two great tensions in Welsh society. Lloyd George from the welsh speaking rural and nationalist north, Bevan from the internationalist and socialist south. Both knew poverty and were educated through the state. Tomorrow in contrast we see the two products of private school (our Prime Minister and Chancellor), born into privilege introduce the most comprehensive demolition of that welfare state we have seen, which coupled with the privatisation of the NHS represents a betrayal of the post war conservative tradition as much as that of the Labour and Liberal Parties.
Of course Lloyd George (or for that matter most of the great politicians of the post) would survive the hypocritical desire of the press for a purity that rarely goes with power and conviction. The days of the great conviction politicians are behind us, replaced with PR agents and masters of the sound bite. We are weaker in consequence.
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