Posts Tagged ‘National Health Service’

Aneurin Bevan (1897-1960)

With NHS in crisis these days  and often pointed out to its appalling failure it is worthwhile remembering its architect. The son of a coal miner, he was a lifelong champion of social justice and the rights of working people. For his qualities and service he stands on the same footing as Ernest Bevin as one of the remarkable politicians in the modern history of Great Britain.
For instance his opposition to the Means Test when introduced by the Ramsey MacDonald government. In the House of Commons Bevan argued that the “purpose of the Means Test is not to discover a handful of people receiving public money when they have means to supply themselves. The purpose is to compel a large number of working-class people to keep other working-class people, to balance the Budget by taking £8 to £10 millions from the unemployed.”Bevan was one of the most outspoken opponents of Ramsay MacDonald and his National Government. Churchill also fared no better. For Bevan’s frequent criticisms Churchill would dub him as ‘squalid nuisance.’


Today perhaps Bevan stands more burnished than ever what with the emergence of Labour Party as viable alternative the Tories in the post-Margaret Thatcher period. The rank and file in his day was as one behind him who dismissed the Tories as ‘vermin’.  Though lacking in academic qualities or privileges that Churchill would consider as necessary appurtenances, he could stand as equal with him as an orator. No greater contrast could be found between the two than in Nye Bevan’s improvised magic went straight to heart of the matter while Churchillian literary allusions and armada of words sounded more sonorous. Compare Bevan’s  ‘The religion of socialism is the language of priorities’ with the blood, sweat and tears’ harangue.


Bevan shared with Hugh Gaitskill a tragic destiny. Each was cut off as he reached near his supreme opportunity. Nye  Bevan resigned from Attlee’s Cabinet over Gaitskill’s Budget. They fought for the soul of the labour movement and felled each other in the process. 

Health Sevice built during his ministry 1945-1951) is his monumental achievement.

According to Professor Dai Smith, he was ‘that rare being, a practical politician with a philosophy for his actions beyond the minutiae of political activity, which was, in turn, only a means to achieve social and cultural ends.’



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Aneurin Bevan (1897-1960)
Is he still relevant? I think so. Especially when in America medicare is still an explosive issue.
The collective principle asserts that… no society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.
—Aneurin Bevan, In Place of Fear, p100
On the “appointed day”, 5 July 1948, having overcome political opposition from both the Conservative Party and from within his own party, and after a dramatic showdown with the British Medical Association, which had threatened to derail the National Health Service scheme before it had even begun, as medical practitioners continued to withhold their support just months before the launch of the service, Bevan’s National Health Service Act of 1946 came into force. After 18 months of ongoing dispute between the Ministry of Health and the BMA, Bevan finally managed to win over the support of the vast majority of the medical profession by offering a couple of minor concessions, but without compromising on the fundamental principles of his NHS proposals. Bevan later gave the famous quote that, in order to broker the deal, he had “stuffed their mouths with gold”. Some 2,688 voluntary and municipal hospitals in England and Wales were nationalised and came under Bevan’s supervisory control as Health Minister.
When he was Britain’s minister of Health, he returned home each night with cabinet papers and retreated to a small top bed room with them. Once he called late in the night for his second brief case as bulging with sheaves of papers as before.
At this his wife remonstrated, ‘No’ said she, ‘One you may take. But taking two to bed is positively immoral.’

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