Today saw the funeral of Margaret Thatcher, arguably the most divisive Prime Minister the UK has ever had. Some love her, some loath her; nobody has ‘no opinion’ when it come to assessing her legacy.
When Thatcher swept to power in 1979, I was only 6 years of age. Over the next eleven and a-half years I remember vividly growing up in a part of the UK – Scotland, that was markedly ill-at-ease with the effects of Thatcher’s social and economic policy. I was very much aware of the whirlwind of social change that saw the heart ripped out of mining communities and manufacturing industries closing down one-by-one; most have struggled desperately to recover. I remember the very visceral reaction to watching ‘yuppies’ in the city of London making obscene amounts of money from a culture of greed and rampant individualism. It just seemed so wrong; the gap between the rich and poor was widening at an alarming rate and unemployment reached record levels, neither of which seemed to concern Mrs. Thatcher as she marched on towards a free-market utopia.
It seems to me that Thatcherism is alive and well today in modern Britain. The vulnerable are victimized and the rich keep on getting richer. Senior bankers continue to pay themselves bonuses regardless of performance. The oft-repeated phrase ‘we’re in this together’ rings very hollow for the unemployed, the disabled and the elderly. It’s all so sad and unnecessary.
All of this is the backdrop against which I finally got round to watching Ken Loach’s thought-provoking film ‘The Spirit of ’45‘. Loach’s documentary focuses on the remarkable spirit of unity which saw Britain through the war years and propelled it into an era of unprecedented co-operation, enabling the creation of the National Health Service and other landmark achievements.
By using film from Britain’s regional and national archives, alongside sound recordings and contemporary interviews, Loach succeeds in creating a rich political and social narrative that makes for compelling viewing. The Spirit of ’45 is a celebration of community spirit, the impact of which endured for many years and made life better for so many people. Indeed, Loach himself said: “The achievements of the ’45 Labour government have largely been written out of our history. From near economic collapse we took leading industries into public ownership and established the Welfare State. Generosity, mutual support and co-operation were the watch words of the age. It is time to remember the determination of those who were intent on building a better world.”
The challenge of ‘The Spirit of ’45‘ is to envisage a new era of national co-operation. It goes without saying that although the challenges faced in 2013 are different to those in 1945, the spirit of co-operation is most certainly something that we urgently need to recapture. And that’s why Ken Loach’s film is so important. As a Christian, it forces me to reflect, and of course to take very seriously the numerous passages of Scripture that remind us that we are not just individuals, but responsible for one another in a very real sense. Take Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 as an example: ‘Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken’. Or what about Hebrews 10:24-25? Here it is written: ‘And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near’.
Here is the trailer for ‘The Spirit of ’45’: