Thursday, December 27, 2012

Did Atlee - or PENICILLIN - defeat Churchill in July 1945 ?

In retrospective, the shock defeat of Winston Churchill's National Government in the General Election of July 1945 could have been foreseen in the Fall of 1944.

All that Fall, a long series of indignant Parliamentary questions were raised - and un-comforting answers were given - about the national government's refusal to find penicillin for UK civilians dying of endocarditis while Britain found the means to supply the same medicine to "Germans, Finnish Prime Ministers and Swiss footballers".

Germany and Finland were in the Axis and most Britons saw Switzerland as at least a fellow traveller.

Henry Dawson was long buried by the time the ballots were being counted in the UK, but I doubt whether he would have been as surprised by the Labour win as the world media so obviously was.

Dawson had long known that refusing penicillin to save those dying of endocarditis, a disease that came to those suffering "The Polio of the Poor" (RF -Rheumatic Fever), would be widely unpopular among working class voters, to whom RF and endocarditis were familiar dreaded diseases.

The refusal to supply government or commercial penicillin to those dying of subacute bacterial endocarditis in West Riding Yorkshire had even led the enterprising local government council there to see that its own health lab made and distributed  penicillin.

Yes , a promise to bring in National Health did give Mr Atlee and his Labour party a surprise massive win : but what was the catalyst to this largely underground groundswell of support ?

I believe the example of penicillin and how unevenly it was distributed stood as a contrasting example to a promise to provide adequate health care to all, regardless of class, age, gender, religion or color ....

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