Good guys get forgotten

May 15th, 2005 | By | Category: Cross Channel

May 14th was Saint Matthias’ Day.

Not a lot of people know that (said in best imitation Michael Caine voice).

The girl in the office supplies company certainly wouldn’t have known it.

‘What church did you say your order was for?’ she asked me.

‘Saint Matthias’, I answered.

‘Saint Matthew’s?’ she said.

‘No, Saint Matthias’

‘Matthias’, she said, ‘who was he?

‘He was the guy who took the place of Judas Iscariot’, I said.

‘Heard of Judas’, she answered’, hadn’t heard of him’.

Good guys get forgotten.

Ask people to name major figures they can remember from history and count up how many good guys you get. Hitler and Stalin and Napoleon will figure in many, if not most, people’s lists, but what good guys will there be?

In all the commemorations of 1945, I wonder who will get forgotten. In all the stuff I have heard so far, there has not been a mention of one of the good guys who was alongside Churchill throughout the war.

Clem Attlee, leader of the Labour Party, was there in the War Cabinet through the darkest times. Quietly spoken, educated at public school and Oxford, Attlee had served at the front through World War I, rising to the rank of major. Attlee didn’t have the mark of a radical.

When the war was over sixty years ago, Britain had its first general election in a decade, Churchill was unceremoniously dumped and Attlee was swept to power. Churchill felt he had been betrayed by the British people, one of his generals described socialists as ‘vermin’. But the people wanted a new and a better Britain, they had bitter memories of the 1930s and were determined not to go back. They switched to the Labour Party in their millions.

It was Attlee’s Government that laid the foundations of the Britain that people want to preserve; Attlee’s Government introduced the legislation establishing the Welfare State; Attlee’s Government took the revolutionary step in 1948 of establishing the National Health Service.

As the various anniversaries are marked, who will remember Clem Attlee?

Good guys get forgotten.

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