Aneurin Bevan and the Socialist Ideal – Professor Vernon Bogdanor

Gresham College presents an iron Bevin and the Socialist ideal by professor Vernon Bogdan all CBE FBA ladies and gentlemen I was given the idea for these lectures by someone who came to the last set for which I'm very grateful I was asked why don't you give some lectures about great politicians interesting politicians who never became Prime Minister and I thought that was a very good idea so this is the first of six lectures called making the well now the phrase making the weather comes from Winston Churchill who said of Joseph Chamberlain who was colonial secretary at the beginning of the 20th century that he made the weather than what he meant by that was that he'd set the agenda which other politicians followed and so although Joseph Chamberlain never became Prime Minister perhaps he left a greater mark on history than many prime ministers and is remembered of more than many who became prime minister so these lectures are going to going to discuss six post-war politicians who did not become prime minister but arguably had more impact than many who did and I wonder who will be more remembered by history and I'm better than whom were engaged to talk about today the creator of the National Health Service or James Callaghan who was Prime Minister Enoch Powell who's another of my choice is also Alec dad was human he was Prime Minister now one of the six that I'm going to be talking about was hardly in office at all Enoch Powell held a cabinet office for just fifteen months and one other Sir Keith Joseph was widely regarded as a rather ineffective Minister but other people including an Aaron Bevin subject to today's lecture in McLeod the subject the next one and Roy Jenkins the subject the later one they exhaust influence because of what they did as well as what they stood for now you may think what they stood for was good or you may think it was bad but I think you'd find it difficult that they had influence whether their influence came not only from what they did but from what they taught now one of my six politicians Tony Benn is the only one of the six incidentally who still alive he once said that he put down a bill for debate in the House of Commons which would at a stroke repeal every single legislative measure passed by Margaret Thatcher's government but he said even if that was passed which of course it could not be he said it would have little effect because he said Margaret Thatcher's influence came not primarily from her legislation from what she did but from what she taught even though been believed that most of what Margaret Thatcher taught was harmful and Ben then went on to say that what the left had lacked was a teacher but it had not had a teacher since an hour in Bevin now I think all six of my subjects were great teachers though as I say you may not agree with what they taught indeed I think no one could agree with all six of them because they taught very different things and I've chosen three politicians of the right and three of the left and my first today is a man of the left are Noreen Bevin was and I will try and show a great man of government he was a member of the 1945 Ackley government for nearly six years but also a great teacher and I think his significance was twofold first what he did in government creating the National Health Service but secondly what he stood for as a prime spokesman in post-war Britain for the Socialist ideal but I think he was in one way unique a month for six in one respect in that he not only taught people and made them think but he also made them feel and in that I think he had something in common with Churchill now Churchill in 1940 did not though his appeal to the strength of his arguments but the fact that he expressed the feeling of the British people that they were not prepared to surrender to Hitler and famously in 1954 on his 80th birthday Churchill said the British people the Lions but he had the privilege to give the roar and Bevin I think expressed feelings in the same way made people feel as well as making them think but his early years gave no hint of what was to come he was born in 1897 in Judea in South Wales a mining village – a mining family he was one of ten children only six of whom lived to adulthood which wasn't I think wholly unusually in those days now he was very poor by modern standards but his family was not amongst the poorest in the standards of the Welsh mining villages at that time he did not live in a slum and in nineteen six his father managed to buy a house for the family his father was a miner a Welsh speaking member of the chapel who enjoyed choral singing was a voracious reader and enjoyed writing poetry in his spare time and Bevin inherited his father's love for reading and to some extent is interested in music but he never learnt Welsh Bevin dedication was fairly rudimentary he was not thought the intellectual of the family and even his mother who was very ambitious did not suggest that he should try for secondary school because no one thought he passed the 11-plus examination which his sister in fact did and Bevin left school at 13 after a very undistinguished school career and part of the reason for this was that he suffered from a stammer something that he had in common with George the sixth and was to prove a bond between them when Bevin became a minister in the post-war years Bevin also had a lisp something that he had in common with Churchill when perhaps for this reason he was very much bullied by his schoolmaster and also by his fellow pupils now to avoid the embarrassment of the stammer what he did was to consult a dictionary and a thesaurus to discover synonyms for words that he could other he could only pronounce with difficulty so he would avoid difficult words and that I think in part accounts for the very wide vocabulary of his speeches when he became a minister that this search enlarged his vocabulary and I'll give him an example from our debate in 1949 a debate on the health service and Bevin was rebuking the conservative opposition for pouring scorn on the health service being a bit miserable about he said what happened to them he said they used to represent themselves as a jocund party an honourable member said what and Bevin said they cannot understand English now I will give them a clue how jocund did they drive their teams afield but people didn't recognize it came from Gray's elegy in a country churchyard and it means sprightly and light-hearted but it was a word he used so you wouldn't have to use the words he found difficult to pronounce and he would also use sometimes I think as an ethic tation his stammer to great effect in that same debate he was due to reply to Churchill who made a typical rhetorical speech attacking the Labour government and all its works and so on and Bevin when he got up said and I can't unfortunately imitated his Welsh accent you'll hear that later on we've got his speaking but this was in the House of Commons of course it wasn't then recorded he said I welcome this opportunity he said looking at Churchill who was rather overweight of pricking the bloat this bloated bladder of lies with the boneyard of truth but when he said Pollard p'pon yard of truth and had therefore a great effect at a later stage at a Labour Party conference in 1957 he was opposing unilateral nuclear disarmament which he said would send a Labour foreign secretary naked into the conference and he said and you call that statesmanship i call it an emotional spasm and on the butt spasm he said it like that so it had much more heck so and he forced himself even as a youth to speak in public to overcome this disability and his friend michael foot once said how did you cure your stammer nigh and Bevin said by torturing my audiences and that was an early sign of the strength of his will he became a very fine speaker second only to Churchill I think as a parliamentary speaker some would say equal to or even better but they both of them commanded the Commons both itself educated both neither went to university now at the age of 13 Bevin went down the mines at the salary at a wage of 10 shillings a week and he worked in the mines for nine years but he was determined to educate himself and Harold Wilson once said that he was the best educated man he ever met his favorite authors in later life he said were Thomas Jefferson Jack London the French novelist and Island HG Wells now one weekend in in 1950 or to get a relaxation from government he went to his michael foot to stratford to spend the weekend to see Jacque Sir John Gielgud in King Lear and Peggy Ashcroft in as you like it and after the performances Bevin gave it talked the theatre directors headed by Antony Quayle on the errors made by some critics of Shakespeare which was people found impressive now in 1919 Bevin won a scholarship for two years to attend the Central Labor College in London and he found that tedious he thought they weren't teaching a enough left-wing theory and particularly weren't teaching Marxism and he joined a breakaway left-wing group from the Central Labor College I hardly dare tell you what it was called it was called the plebs League it had been founded by a South Wales miner and Bevin contributed an article to its journal which was called pledge analyzing the Communist Manifesto and Bevin in that article announced himself a Marxist in the sense that he believed in class conflict but he said that Marx had underestimated the role of political democracy with a fully developed franchise and that the emancipation of the working class could therefore be achieved not by revolution but by Parliament and Bevin used to say the most revolutionary force in the world was parliamentary democracy and what is Marxism really amounted to was simply this but since the working class constituted a majority in society under democracy society would move towards socialism because the working class as a whole would be socialist and socialism in his view was a form of society based on fellowship and ethical living and was best secured by state planning and by public ownership now though influenced by Marxism Bevin always believed the only possible vehicle for socialism was the Labour Party he was never retracted by any splinter socialist movement such as the Communist Party or the Independent Labour Party which broke off from the Labour Party in 1932 and he dissuaded his wife from joining that breakaway and he said even though he admitted and accepted the Labour Party was not particularly committed to socialism he said the Labour Party must be converted and near the end of his life in 1959 he said so to a friend the left is very weak he said not more than about 50 MPs one fifth of the party are socialists it was dominated by a huge age skillion great opponent and what he called his clique of statisticians he said there's no other instrument he said though I know that sometime though I know that sometimes I don't know how I could stay in the labor party it isn't really a socialist part at all but he still he did he never thought of leaving the lame part it had to be converted now after these two years in London the Central Labor College he went back to Wales back to the mind and gradually went into local politics became a member of his urban district council and then his County Council and he would probably have remained I think a miner's leader of a union leader had it not been from an extraordinary stroke of luck now at that time the safe seats in South Wales were usually given to a trade union man upon retirement as a kind of reward for the good service in the trade unions so you didn't become an MP till quite late but he had a stroke of luck in the constituency in which he lived of ever Vale that the existing MP Evan Davis was being deselected not on ideological grounds but because he was just a poor MP he didn't reply to constituents letters he never came to meetings and so on and so on and there was about which Evan Davis and five others stood including Bevin and Bevin one this meant that he had a safe seat for life he was elected in 1929 the MP for ever Vale huge majorities indeed in some elections he wasn't even opposed by a conservative and so he had no trouble with his parliamentary constituency and he established his reputation early on as a left-wing Labour MP radical critic of a national gun and so radical indeed he was expelled from a Labour Party in January 1939 with another future leading figures of Stafford Cripps who became Chancellor art of war but readmitted at the end of the year and during the war at the time of the Old Party truth Bevin again the left-wing critic of the government particularly of Churchill who called him a squalid nuisance at the time and therefore it was a great surprise when in 1945 he was appointed Minister of Health by Attlee and he was one of only two cabinet Menace who had not been in the wartime coalition government to be given office everyone else in the cabinet was given office so it was a surprise and Bevin was also the youngest member of the cabinet well he wasn't young by modern standards he was 47 that's younger than David Cameron is now and George Osborne is 42 other ministers I think someone moved in younger but but the stands of that kid he was very young the average age of the Ackley government was well over 60 and who may reflect on that it was after all a very successful government now even more remarkable he was given the crucial position of Minister of Health where he remained for over five years by far the longest tenure since the ministry had been created by Lord George in 1919 and this was a great risk people thought Bevin had never been in government before his reputations only as an extreme left-wing critic and Churchill greeted him but in Parliament by saying that unless he changed his views he could be as great a curse to his country in time of peace as he was a squalid nuisance in time of war but he rapidly proved himself surprise of many look at it purely administrative Lee and forgetting a pitiful debate for the road a first-class Minister and his permanent secretary said he was the best Minister he'd ever served and the principal assistant secretary primarily responsible for the health service a man called John Peter agreed with that John Paton incidentally wrote a very good book on the founding of a Health Service which does give a lot of plaudits to Bevin and this is an important point that I want to make about Bevin because he's often remembered today I think as a firebrand or a rebel but I think his main achievement is as a man of government and in a sense of tragedy for the Labor Party that he had only six years in government and spent most of his life in opposition and he was a fine Minister because he could concentrate on essential and the main principles of any problem he work out and then he delegate to the civil service the details get them to implement it he'd always stimulate them to do the work and always back them up and he was very creative exactly the sort of minister civil servants like didn't interfere with detail he got the main outlines as we'll see with the Health Service and told them to get on with it now the Ministry of Health of the crucial position at that time because it was generally agreed that there was going to be health services some sort the existing system being very much of a patchwork now the system then was based on what had been created by Lloyd George in 1911 and was an insurance system in which you got a sickness benefit and free treatment from the panel doctor but that covered only those in work except for a small maternity grant for women there was no cover for the self-employed north or dependents as women and children and by 1938 it covered just 43 percent of the population the rest were not covered by insurance now since it was an insurance system it wasn't clear what happened to you when you used out all your benefits if your illness remained you presumably had to pay for further treatment and it was also very limited because it did not cover hospital or specialist treatment except tuberculosis only treatment under a general practitioner now the hospital system in case you needed special specialist treatment was also a patchwork and there were two kinds of hospitals at that time some of them were municipal hospitals the run by a local authority some of them excellent for example the London County Council ran a very good hospital service the 75,000 beds it was perhaps at that time the largest hospital authority in the world but some other local authorities weren't as good and for the hospital's you paid on a means-tested basis though some local authorities provided free treatment to ratepayers now the pure local authority is almost by definition couldn't provide as good a service as the larger and better ones and so the service was uneven and there was a further weakness it was alleged that local councillors got their relatives and friends admitted before other people so that you know if you knew and local councillor you were more likely to get Hospital place than if you didn't so that was one set of hospitals a Municipal Hospital run by local authorities the second set were voluntary hospitals which were financed by contributions though they were in such difficulty that the end of the war about over 80% of them were funded from public money now many of those hospitals were very small 70% of them had fewer than 30 beds and therefore couldn't really deal with important illnesses and in his speech introducing the Health Service Bevin answered those who gave you the merits of localism and community and he said I would rather be kept alive in the efficient if cold altruism of a large hospital than expire in a gash of sympathy in a warm one in a small one and again the distribution of these hospitals was also half hazard and they found difficult to keep up with a pace of technical advance they used to have Flag days to raise money and seek money from people who were getting treatment they they used to ask for contributions at one particularly shocking story I think of a mother who a pregnant mother who was entering hospitals asked if she could make a contribution and she unfortunately couldn't because she didn't have very much money and what what she had she'd need for the baby now the baby was stillborn and they then said well you won't be needing that money now can you contribute it instead to the hospital so that wasn't a very happy situation now in my opinion though I think I'm in a minority amongst historians lloyd-george took the view that his national insurance system was a stage towards a national health service and he said in 1911 to his private secretary insurance necessarily temporary expedient at no distant date hope states will acknowledge full responsibility in the matter of making provision for sickness breakdown and unemployment insurance were then bound necessary and I think lloyd-george would have favored of state service he was dead by the time it was introduced though interesting enough his last vote in the House of Commons in 1943 was against the government and in favor of the immediate implementation of the Beveridge report but at any rate by the time that the Labor government came to office it was generally agreed you had to have a medical service of some sort and because many people are asking themselves can we afford to go to the doctor can we afford the operation we need so there was general agreement I think cutting across the parties that you need a health service but not on what health service it should be now Bevin was very forth long list he said that the most important thing was that a person ought not to be financially deterred from seeking medical assistance at the earliest possible stage and therefore that involved creating the entirely new service and not a mere extension and adaptation of what existed and so he said instead of the insurance quality you must have a universal health service based on general taxation funded out of taxation and Bevin said this would be good for the rich as well as the poor because he said what more pleasure can a millionaire have than to know that his taxes will help the sick he said I know how enthusiastic they have always been in following that up and he said the redistributed aspect of the scheme was one which attracted me almost as much as the therapeutical so it wasn't really medical it was a way of redistributing he said you cannot have the insurance principle because you can't give different types of treatment in respective different order of contributions you can't perform a second class operation on a patient if he is not quite paid up so you have a universal service paid out of taxation and available to all and that would include not just the general practitioner service as under the insurance system but also specialist service hospitals I treatment spectacles dental treatment and hearing facilities so there are two aspects that first a comprehensive free and universal health service and secondly the form of redistribution of income in the method of financing so that was the first thing then what were you to do with the hospital's he said the voluntary hospitals were repugnant to a civilized community the hospitals to have to rely upon private charity he said I have always felt a shudder of repulsion when I have seen nurses and sisters who ought to be at their work and students who ought to be at their work going about the streets collecting money for the hospitals so the voluntary hospitals had to be taken over but should they be taken over by local authorities or by central government he said it couldn't be local authorities they were too poor and too small so you had to plan universalize the best so that every citizen had the similar standard of service that could not be done through a rate born institution which meant the poor Authority would not be able to match the rich one there'd be too many anomalies and where the services were most needed the you will not be available so his second decision it was a universal free comprehensive service the first decision the second decision excuse me a key one was to nationalize the hospitals to bring them under the authority of the Ministry of Health responsible to Parliament now some parts of it would remain with local authorities the Public Health System and school medical services and maternity and child welfare would be in health centers which remain with local government as it did until 1974 when a further reform and put them also with the center then finally the question of how general practitioners would be paid and the general practitioner of a hostile to a full salaried service of the kind that teachers had and Bevin agreed with that he said the payment of a doctor must be in some degree a reward for zeal and there must be some degree of punishment for lack of it so there's a small basic salary but the main source of money was a capitation fee based on the number of patients you attracted so I sum it up a free and equal system opened all no one had to opt in or contribute any one could opt out and Bevin said that just in the 19th century it secured constitutional and political rights this was securing a basic social right citizenship and here if our technician is on the ball we can hear an iron Bevin in the 1950s some years after health service emphasizing the central principles of a health service which he thaws a form of applied social technician please I'm proud about it actually a service it's a piece of we Association is a piece of real Christianity too we had to wait a long time for it what I had in mind when we organized a National Health Service in 1946 to 1950 agent remember when we did it you know you you younger ones this is immediately up to the end of the Second World War when we were asked the Winston Churchill that said a bankrupt nation but nevertheless we did these things and there is no like in any nation in the world communist or capitalist any health service to compare them now the National Health Service had two main principles and aligning it one that the Medical Arts as revealing should be made available to people where they needed them they respected well they could afford to pay for the minato that was the first person the second was that this should be done not at the expense of the poorer members of the community but otherwise you do in short I refuse to accept the insurance principle I refused to accept the principle that the National Health Service repaid by contributions I first accept I officially accepted to the demographers nonsense if you had me fully pay up you couldn't have a second class creation because you can't go to photo stamps the deal now I'm not sure Bevin did actually see the health service as socialist rather than a step towards socialism the Socialist Medical Association was dissatisfied with it because they wanted a full-time salaried medical service as with teachers and they didn't like the concessions that Bevin made the doctors they wanted the abolition of pay beds in national health hospitals and indeed the abolition of private medicine entirely now I think the British Medical Association and the Royal Colleges would never accepted a health service on that basis but Bevin had a strong reason for allowing pay beds to continue in public hospitals and if you don't do that if you don't allow consultants do that work they will there'll be a rash of private nursing homes and you will have a dual system as you have in education with a separate system of public schools and the state system and the state system will be seen as second-class is you don't want that and he said he said if the state owned a theatre it would not charge the same prices for different seats the states will provide for example a certain amount of dentistry free but if a person wants to have his teeth filled with gold the state will not provide that so that was his argument but the socialist medical surgeon didn't like it and I think this shows Bevin was seen as a socialist vibe and he was actually a practical man of government who didn't let if you like I'd illogical principled stand in the way of getting a good health service off the ground now it's often said urn as a criticism made of Bevin I think a fourth one that he believed with the backlog of bad health care cleared up costs would fall on the contrary Bevin rather hoped that as dissatisfaction with the health service grew cost would rise and would get and he said when it was introduced the Minister of Health famous remarks will be the whipping boy for their health service in Parliament every time a maid kicks over a bucket of slop sin award an agonized wail will go through Whitehall after the new service is introduced there will be a cacophony of complaints for a while it will appear that everything is going wrong as a matter of fact everything you'll be going right because people will be able effectively to complain they complain now but nobody reads them what the Health Act will do is to put a megaphone in the mouth of every complainant so that he will be heard all over the country as the months go on and the limelight of publicity is brought to bear upon every aspect of the Health Service for a while it will be almost intolerable but this public scrutiny will have a medicinal effect and then he said in a later debate in 1958 in Parliament when people are talking about the cost of the National Health Service I hope they take into account the fact that the service has a column a secret silent column which never appears in the balance sheet that comprises the enormous number of people who are back at work and who would not be there had they not received hospital treatment now as another false criticism I think that people make that he separated the curative services from the preventative services and I think that was inevitable if the hospitals were to be nationalized and I think Bevin was right that local authorities then weren't strong enough to sustain a hospital service but you know what you weren't obviously going to nationalize also housing and education so you had to separate them and so that seems to me another false criticism but I think the main criticism which many people certainly make today is that the service was just had become too centralized and too remote and that contrary to what Bevin thought patients and users don't find do find it difficult to get their complaints actually heard it's too bureaucratic now nye bevelers as we can see he was a great centralist and although he's Welsh he was hostile to devolution when in 1944 Parliament introduced a Welsh gay a Bevin was scornful of it he said sheep don't change their character when they cross the board from England to Wales he said in a person's ear it doesn't matter whether he or she lives in England or in Wales their needs are just the same he didn't want to break up as it were the the repression some reformed by devolution what would now be called a postcode lottery service would be different in different parts of the country he said the basic principle of socialism is that the treatment you get should be based on your needs and not where you live and that I think was something the Labour government then agreed with a basic principle of the welfare state so he resisted calls to trade a Welsh Health Service a Scottish Health Service and so he said the National Health Service now what it really is responsive as he said of putting a megaphone in the mouth of every complainant I suspect most people here would say well it isn't actually quite like that it's a bit more bureaucratic and remote so that's the critic but still it was the first health system in the world to offer free medical care to the entire population the first comprehensive system to be based not on the insurance Prince who got national provision available to all and funded out of taxation and very quickly there was a large degree of satisfaction with it 98% of general practitioners joined it and surveys shortly after it was set up had a satisfaction rate amongst the public of 89 percent now although as I've said the principle the health service was agreed the actual methods Bevin used was not and the conservative opposition I think to their regret and miss Chadwick voted against the second and third readings and I'll read you the conservative amendment to the second reading this was a main Christmas bill but this house while wishing to establish a comprehensive health service declines to give a second reading to a bill which prejudices the patient's right to an independent family it would take away your choice of doctor which retards development of the hospital service by destroying local ownership and gravely menaces all kyra table foundations by diverting two purposes other than those intended by the donors the trust funds of the voluntary hospitals and weaken the responsibility of local authorities without planning the health service as a whole and on the third reading they said that they declined to give a second third reading to a bill which discourages voluntary effort and association mutilates the structure of local government dangerously increases ministerial power and patronage appropriates trust funds and benefactions in contempt of the wishes of doctors and subscribers and undermines the freedom of an independence of a medical profession to the detriment of the nation now the British Medical Association representing the general practitioners were also hostile to the Health Service and some of them said rather extreme things dr. Alfred Cox senior member of the British Medical Association have been medical secretary at the time the lloyd-george reforms said I've examined the bill and it looks to me uncommon Lee like the first step and a big one towards national socialism as practiced in Germany he said the medical service there was early put under the dictatorship of a medical Fuhrer this bill will establish the Minister of Health in that capacity now the thing the doctors feared were a full-time salaried service the ending of clinical freedom the ending of patient choice I think they were all observed Bevin had no intention of attacking that and I think everyone would agree that our safeguarded by the Health Service that the all these things are preserved and health service has become someone said an American clinical scientist as early as nineteen sixty the nearest part part of the British constitution and a former Chancellor of the Exchequer who want to reform it Nigel Lawson said it was a nearest to British had to a religion he said they don't believe in God but they believe in the National Health Service and um and I think it's true that any government which sought to undermine the foundations would be in terrible electoral trouble whatever criticisms you wish to make of it I think it is a better or worse people have different views a sacred cow in that sense now Bevin was not only Minister of Health at that time health was associated with housing so that Bevin was also Minister of Health and housing and his record there used to be very strongly criticized but I think it's a better record than is usually suggested if one remembers the great shortage of materials a Bevin succeeded in building 800,000 council houses during his period of office and it's worth noting he took the view that council houses should be lived in by all sections of the community said segregation by social class in housing is a wholly evil thing and he hoped he was building through the council house program a socialist future which all could share um he in the ATLA government he was a strong supporter of a very tough foreign policy he strongly favored but his participation in the Korean War on grounds of collective security and it's worth remembering he was a member of the cabinet which agreed that Britain should become an independent nuclear power and make the atomic bomb and he took the view be associated we found the left but still a tacit in in foreign policy now the Health Service was to be inaugurated on the 6th of July 1948 and just the day before that Bevin made a speech which got him into terrible trouble its equivalent of Andrew Mitchell's plent remark and he was rather annoyed because Ackley made a radio broadcast in which he paid tribute to all parties for the development of the health service now Bevin was furious about this because he said the concerns appended in Parliament he said I had a lot of trouble with them and you shouldn't say that but at his tactics I think we're very shrewd I read in the time this morning that annex salmon the First Minister of Scotland said his grandfather told him if you're going to make radical speeches do so in a suit now at least tactics were to persuade people to accept quite radical changes by minimizing their radicalism and showing great respect someone say exaggerated respect for traditional institutions not rocking the boat that wasn't Bevins line and he made a speech in Manchester at which he said this he said that we now have the moral leadership of the world roughly what he said there but he said that they weren't supported by the Conservatives and he said what world Toryism except organized spiv are' and he then reminisced about interwar years of unemployment he said he had he been unemployed himself for a while he'd lived on his sister's earnings and he said he'd been suggested he might emigrate and a friend of his to emigrated the Dominions and then he made these remarks which really caused a lot of damage I think he said that is why no amount of cajole Arry and no attented ethical or social seduction can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred of the Tory party that inflicted those bitter experiences on me so far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin it was a vermin speech learning the word like clay observing they condemn millions of first-class people to semi-starvation he said I warn you they have not changed or if they have they are slightly worse than they were now Churchill in reply made a speech at Woodford in which he said that the Minister of Health should be renamed the Minister of disease since morbid hatred is a form of mental disease he said I can think of no better step to signalize the inauguration of the National Health Service found that a person who so obviously needs psychiatric attention should be among the first of its patients and young conservatives began to form what they called vermin clubs get their peak of that it led to rebuke from actually it led to the following letter I will read you and I think a very fair letter My dear an hour in I have received a great deal of criticism of the passage in your speech in which you described the Conservatives as vermin including a good deal from your own party it was I think singularly ill-timed it had been agreed that we wish to give a new scheme as good a send-off as possible and to this end I made a non polemical broadcast your speech cut right across this I had myself done as much as I could to point out the injustice of the attacks made upon you if your handling of the doctors pointing out the difficulties experienced by your predecessors and various political colors in dealing with the profession you would won a victory in obtaining their tardy cooperation but these unfortunate remarks enable the doctors to stage a comeback and have given the general public the impression that there was more to their case than they had supposed this is I think great pity because without doing any good it has drawn attention away from the excellent work you have done over the health bill please be a bit more careful in Urena interest yours ever cleanse and it's possible that these remarks costs him promotion because he certainly very much wanted and I think you'd agree merited promotion to a key position in the government and it's fair to say that accolade didn't handle him very well that he denied him promotion to the Foreign Office or the exchange demands were quite moderate he said he really the Colonial Office because he said the relationships between the developed and developing countries were a key issue in the years to come you want to be there but he said acne told colleague that he thought Bevin was too color prejudiced Pro black and anti white and therefore he wouldn't put him in that decision and he made him Minister of Labour instead which is not a happy position for Bevin it brought him into conflict with the trade unions and at this point when he'd already moved from the health service the question of health service charges arose now with the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 Britain engaged in a crash rearmament program and the question arose of how this was to be paid for and the Chancellor of the Exchequer hew gauge skill great opponent of Bevins said these were to be paid for by charges for false teeth and spectacles and Bevin said he couldn't accept that this was a matter of principle and he resigned if they were introduced and this did raise for him a very important issue it was this you shouldn't bring in to the health service any more than you could help what he called capitalist incentives he said that breeds the acquisitive sense which they didn't want to encourage and he said the problem faced by socialists can't be met by the sorts of measures that Gates killed had in mind he said the problem faced by socialists this that hitherto you'd achieved a captive society it works from fear now with full employment that had diminished fear people no longer feared they would lose their job and similarly because you had a great deal of rationing and austerity and fair shares the acquisitive motive had also been reduced you couldn't buy the in the shops and taxation was very high so there were no jobs to lose there were no Goods to buy what motive then can get people to produce to do things and he said that social attach to create what he called a new kind of authoritarian society where the authority of moral purpose is freely undertaken he said if people believe in the collective he said they will do the things you want them to do and he gave an example in the coal industry where absenteeism was down production was up there was voluntary wage restraint and people were accepting that wages could be held down to save resources for investment and for exports and if you trusted people on that basis people would act responsibly and he said people were acting responsibly in the health service they weren't misusing it but they were being punished if you had charges for were being treated if they weren't responsible and that was fundamentally wrong now you may say there are also personal factors here that there was a battle for the leadership going on who knows em for the Gaitskell and so on but in any way Bevin lost that battle and resigned from the government in April 1951 though in a sense he won the battle because charges and the health serves are comparatively modest there are many exemptions and they form a comparatively small proportion of health service revenue whether he was right or wrong to resign he did so clumsily and he gave the impression he wasn't a team player and in fact he would never hold office again and nor did Hugh Gates guilt they wasted their some of their best years in the wilderness and as the 1950s went on it seemed that Bevin was quite wrong because this moral authority was talking about disappeared with the growth of the affluent society and people naturally desired more consumer goods and so on now Bevin said the affluent society wrong that you had in famous words of American economist JK Galbraith private affluence and public squalor and what was actually happening what society going the other way working class solidarity being eroded by the growth of affluence and individualism when Devin died in 1960 a Conservative MP wrote in The Evening Standard that he was the last of the demagogues in the coal fields from which he came Marx and Engels have been supplanted by Marks and Spencer and the sounds of class war is being drowned by the harm of the spin-dryer there will be no more and now in Bevins bemmon himself seem to see that just before the election of 1959 someone who was going round the country with him kept a diary and Bevin said you see what's happening things are passing it'll pass on us all by it's going the other way he said history gave the British working class the chance and they didn't take it now it's probably too late the great changes in the world will take place in spite of them they will be carried forward with the momentum but as far as stirring the British working class into pioneering action it's not so much it may not be possible no longer matters all that much but then he said there is always the unknown factor you must carry on that if there's a chance of winning or at least are doing something what he was saying was that there was a time so it seemed when Britain could have become a social democracy perhaps like Sweden but a socialist said he was now coming to be too late and he said against Kalu's by then lead of the labour party gates Gill wants to make capitalism work better but with control that's what makes him so dangerous he wants cactus him to go on existing but without the prizes which capitals and earns for itself of course this is impossible cannot work who Margaret Thatcher would have agreed with that you can't make captors and work with those controls it has to be full-blooded if it's in the work properly and Bevin from the other side took the same view so what both he and gates get understood and their reactions were different that the working class was declining constituency now some of you may have read the recent obituaries of Eric Hobsbawm the Marxist historian and he wrote a famous pamphlet in 1978 a forward march of labour halted it was called the forward march of labour halted because there was no longer a large working class it was declining force now Bevin and Gaitskell saw that in the 1950s and what was going to happen now a Bevin said the answer is you simply have to go on propagandizing for the Labor Party but had he stopped thinking that was what was good enough for Keir Hardie would be good enough for the 1950s and 60s he found in council housing his preference for council housing was not shared by most people people prefer to earn their own their own houses nationalization not very popular probably a vote loser the National Health Service perhaps his priorities were not not right perhaps he was not right about private provision perhaps private provision could improve the health service might be a good use of priorities perhaps charges were sensible when he resigned in 1951 another Labour MP said this on this question of principle of a free health service it is nonsense there are many national scandals it would be costly to correct this is not a matter of principle but on the contrary a practical matter there is only one test we can apply and it is an overall one with what we haven't can get by where revenue how can we lay it to the best advantage of those who need it most the person who said that you may be surprised here was Toni to him that it was not a matter of principle practical matter now even so as you move move move later on that's what was right in 1948 wasn't right in nineteen six eight or 1962 or later on perhaps or not to adapt and so one can ask about Bevin in his search for socialism was he failing to distinguish means from ends did he see council houses the particular structure of the health service he set up and the nationalized industries as ends in themselves rather was means perhaps good means that means that needs to be reformed towards the end of a better society perhaps the value of a right but they needed new thinking if they were to be realized did he become obsolescent now I think his career shows that a party of the left needs a willingness to rethink and if necessary to jettison traditional forms in the face of changing realities so from one point of view you may say he outlived his age he was very shocked by watching thought is the exploitation of materialism by Harold Macmillan in the 1950s he would have been horrified by Margaret Thatcher I mean where it difficult to find words to think of what he would have thought of Margaret Thatcher now that's one conclusion you can draw from his career that he was obsolescent but I think that's not the whole story because um as I said he Bevin was at his best as a man of government where he did think and rethink and he wasn't at his best in my view and opportunity he wasn't a great rebel he was a great man of government in my opinion there was an interesting story of what happened that after Labor's third election defeat in 1959 hew Gaitskell the party leader raised the question of whether clause 4 of the Labor Party's Constitution should be deleted that's committing the party so the nationalization of the means of production distribution and exchange finally deleted by Tony Blair in 1995 many years later now as you can imagine Gabe still aroused the tremendous a hornet's nest with opposition in the labor party and it's not clear whether Bevin would have supported him or not he published just one article on claws for Arthur gate school raised his point he said if the Labour Party were to abandon its main thesis ownership it would not differ in any important respect from the Tory party the overwhelming majority of the Labour Party will not acquiesce in the jettisoning of the concepts of progressive public ownership but some years earlier in a book he published in place of fear he said something rather different he said democratic socialism is the child of modern society and so a relativist philosophy it seeks the truth in any given situation knowing all the time that if this be pushed too far it stalls into error it struggles against the evils that flow from private property yet realizes that all forms of private property are not necessarily evil so we don't know what side he would have taken because one important point I think that gates kill his old opponent who beaten him to the leadership was now at Bevins mercy if Bevin had not supported him Gaitskell I think could not have survived that Gaitskell was now dependent on Bevin but faith took a malign hand in December 1959 Bevin was operated on from cancer he was visited in hospital by his old friend Michael thought who found him typically he was still trying to educate himself he was reading JB Priestley's book literature and Western man and when he was he thought he was recovering but he had inoperable cancer but when he broke a B he gave an interview and he said he would never write his memoirs he said I understand that mr. McMillan reads political biographies I have never been able to achieve that level of credulity said my experience of public life has taught me to know that most of them are entirely unreliable I would rather take my fictional straight and then he added newspapers of course I read avidly it is my one form of continuous fiction now had he lived and when he died he was yet he died in the summer of 1960 he was younger than Harold Macmillan when he formed his government had he lived he might well have once again become a creative and effective Minister we don't know now Gaitskell also died early in january 1963 and is a tragedy I think for the Labour Party to lose the leadership which both might have provided the history of Britain might have been very different had they survived they might have made labour a natural party of government because behind all their differences I think they had a great deal in common as treating the electorate as capable intelligent judgment and arguing their case Bevin in particular as the remark about newspapers showed deplore the civilization debate in newspapers he wants an educated electorate he said the papers ought to devote more of their time to reporting parliamentary proceedings and he was an early supporter of a televising of parliament on the grounds of public education Bevin was a man I think of greater vision and gate skill he once had any fool can see that turn two makes four but it takes real capacity to stretch it to five and better still to six or seven and if anyone could have persuaded the British people to have adopted the socialist idea I think it was Bevin and I as I said I think he didn't think of the National Health Service as socialism czar step towards it he wanted to replace capitalism and very interesting Lee Gates killed widowed admitted some years after gates kills death that in retrospect she felt that Bevin should have been leader of the Labour Party rather than her own husband she said it would have made much more sense politically because Bevin was a natural leader for a Socialist Party which of course begs the question whether labour was in fact a socialist party in government Bevin would have been radical but on foreign and defense policy he would have failed a very strong patriotic stance he were been in my opinion a left-wing Thatcher in government Patchett but a left-wing radical patriot and as I say it was power not opposition that brought out the best in him of course we'll never know what might have been but it seems to me that he remains the preeminent spokesman of democratic socialism in post-war Britain and that he might have been the great leader that the late 20th century Labour Party is so badly needed but was never able to find thank you for all information please visit

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