ken loach2Having just been sent news of Ken Loach’s new film, Spirit of ’45, an account of the unity that built the post-war welfare state, which was contrasted with the dismantling we are witnessing today, the writer was stunned to find that ‘can do’ spirit alive in Northfield on Saturday. 

A couple of hours later came  dismay – though not surprise – whilst listening to a radio play which unemotionally focussed on probably the most serious and deadly case of deceit, manipulation and coercion by a British prime minister (and cronies), procedures now regularly exposed in the higher political/commercial echelons.

Loach, like the Northfield group, recalled the postwar period: the implementation of the National Health Service and universal child benefit, improvements in National Insurance and the nationalisation of the railways and mines. Loach added that conditions for workers in areas such as safety, housing and minimum wages for dockers, improved dramatically.

As Loach told Laura Davis of the Liverpool Daily Post, this happy situation did not last long: in the 1970s, manufacturing employment fell by a quarter, with 1.2 million jobs lost between 1971-81 and the Conservative Party dropped the Government’s commitment to full employment and introduced a reprivatisation programme. Neither Loach nor the Northfield group added reference to the effect of capital flight abroad following the lifting of capital controls.

There was a remarkable consensus in the otherwise disparate Northfield group, which in age, belief & occupation range represented society at large. Their analysis placed far more emphasis on the huge and widening income gap in society, but otherwise mirrored Loach’s:

“People have been told that this is inevitable, the way the world is like an act of God. It’s not. It’s a conscious choice by politicians acting on behalf of private interests”

“It seems we’ve now come full circle but now poverty expresses itself through obesity and cheap food that is rubbish and does you harm, through drug culture, through alienation and the desperation of unemployment . . . It is much less visible than in the 30s. We found that in trying to find contemporary images of poverty. You drive through parts of cities where you know 50% of the kids aren’t working and there is nobody there. Maybe daytime TV is pumping out.”

Loach: “There is dire need for a call to arms, but who to lead it?”

“There is a vacuum on the left – we don’t have a movement or a party that speaks for the interests of ordinary people. All the parties from one extent to the other support the market economy. We’re been led down a path that gives us no hope at all. There are so many people outside the Labour Party who would be activists were there a viable party to belong to. People are desperate for an alternative, they just don’t know where to turn.

“People forget the strength they have . . . actually they can stop things tomorrow if they choose to. They could turn the lights off. They could close the shops, shut down the transport, close the factories until things change. If they knew the power they had . . .”

The people gathered at Northfield had a different emphasis; they want to work for change through campaigning. Like Loach they believe that there is much to be learned from the can-do attitude of the 1940s . . .

The Spirit of ’45  film may be seen at

Birmingham – MAC

Friday 29 March
Monday 01 April
Tuesday 02 April
Thursday 04 April

Coventry – Warwick Arts Centre

Tuesday 30 April
Wednesday 01 May
Thursday 02 May