Aneurin Bevan was an extraordinarily magical man, as indeed I know; without elevating him to the realm cf superman he nevertheless contained some emotion, or passion, that seems somehow to be lost to the political hierarchy of today. His distaste for the personal calculation was, as Michael Foot says, no pose, though today it might well have seemed to be. He always argued that the Tories were soft on the outside, but deadly hard inside, and that the Labor opposition was the reverse. The Tories would always show good manners to their opponents in the House of Commons Smoking Room, but unite relentlessly in a crisis.
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The Socialists, inflexible in personal dispute, would in that crisis panic and surrender. It needed a serious act of will to break this spell, and Bevan had that act of will. Nye Bevan's enduring monument will forever be the British National Health Service, which stands as the glowing achievement of that first Labor administration, for which he fought three daunting years against the medical Establishment — and, fortunately for many of us, won forever.
If for nothing else, Nye goes among the immortals. Michael Foot reports those last 15 years with loyalty and affection, and of course the impeccable style one would expect.
The last volume of Harold Macmillan's autobiography is far harder to assess since it is not, as it were, written at all, but reproductions of contemporary notes and great lumps of transcribed material. Yet if anyone can get through the first thirty pages or so, dealing with the endless melancholy debates that resulted in the misfortune of Britain joining the Common Market a negotiation as turgid as its results are pitiful , there is much to endear us to this odd old anachronism who led us for so long.
Perhaps, as Belloc said, we should have held the hand of Nurse, for fear of getting Something Worse. It would seem that Macmillan and Kennedy had a sort of avuncular relationship, though it is clear that any significant British effectuality at that electric time came through Bertrand Russell rather than Downing Street.
It is equally obvious that. Macmillan would have been a great Prime Minister some 80 years ago Still, he was really attached to Jack Kennedy. European nations, particularly, should be free to form independent, democratic socialist governments. He also pressed for the continuation of public control of vital industries and the development of a comprehensive system of social services.
Labour's landslide victory brought Bevan into the cabinet as minister of health and housing. This, combined with his membership on the Labour Party executive since , placed him in a key position to shape the nature of post-war Britain. The creation of the National Health Service probably was Bevan's greatest achievement, brought about by his unswerving commitment to a comprehensive, free, and high quality service and his sophisticated ability to cut through knotty political and administrative problems. Encountering strong opposition—particularly from doctors fearing that they would be turned into civil servants with little professional independence and lower incomes —the Health Service did not go into effect until , but it soon had Bevan was less successful in the area of housing.
He was plagued by financial and material shortages and refused to compromise quality.
Nevertheless, 1,, permanent houses were built between and From to Labour ministers worked together, notwithstanding debates and disagreements between the left and right wings of the party. The atmosphere changed in when an ambitious and costly arms program was launched, part of the growing Cold War.
To fund this program, the new chancellor of the exchequer, Hugh Gaitskell, proposed charging fees for spectacles and dentures.
Medicine and Books
Bevan believed that any dilution of the principle of a totally free and comprehensive service set a dangerous precedent. He particularly opposed the introduction of fees to fund the Cold War. When fees were imposed anyway, Bevan resigned from the government, where he held the post of minister of labour. In late Conservatives came to power, and for the rest of Bevan's life—he died in —the Labour Party was in opposition. Bevan served as the leader of a left wing faction, the "Bevanites," arguing against rearmament and for an independent socialist foreign policy in Europe and the Third World , in opposition to the more conservative "Gaitskellites.
“The Tito from Tonypandy”: Bevan and Yugoslavia
Bevan had the support of constituency parties, but was opposed by many important trade union leaders. Bevan shaped and often dominated Labour politics at this time, but Gaitskell and the moderates triumphed. In his last years, however, Bevan and Gaitskell united to argue against the Conservative handling of the Suez crisis.
He also backed Gaitskell in arguing that Britain should not abandon the hydrogen bomb.
Bevan had fought to set limits on Britain's development of nuclear weapons , but did not join many of his followers in the growing antinuclear movement. He died, therefore, as he had lived, fighting hard for the things he believed in even if it meant alienating followers and friends. A comprehensive two volume biography is Michael Foot 's Aneurin Bevan , Bevan published one book of essays, In Place of Fear Morgan, Labour in Power Cite this article Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.
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