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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Posted in personalities, tagged Benny Thomas, caricature, charcoal, Clement Attlee, dockworkers union, Herbert Morrison, Nye Bevan, pen portrait, Popular Front, TUC, Winston Churchill on July 7, 2013|
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Ernest Bevin(1881-1951) was a self made man who rose from humble circumstances to be a force to reckon with in the British politics. For example as a foreign minister when NATO was formed the US may have been the senior partner but he was the engine that got Britain on board. The son of poor parents, and an orphan at six he was schooled in adversity. Yet he could hold is own with the best brains and with greatest in the realm. When King George VI asked him where he had gained so much knowledge he replied,’Your Majesty, I plucked it from ‘edgerows of experience.’
Bevin joined the Dockers’ Union and rising through the ranks by the age of 30 he was elected general secretary, a post he was to hold for the next nineteen years.
He was a member of the Labour Party. In 1936 the Conservative government feared the spread of communism and was fairly sympathetic to the military uprising in Spain against the left-wing popular Front.
Bevin was a strong supporter of the PF government in Spain and in August 1936 made a speech where he praised “the heroic struggle being carried on by the workers of Spain to save their democratic regime.” Nevertheless he was against working with the Communist Party of Great Britain.
In May 1940 he was inducted by Churchill into his coalition government as Minister of Labour. Bevin successfully achieved mobilization of Britain’s workforce and became one of the most significant members of Churchill’s war cabinet. In 1945 Labor came into power Attlee appointed Bevin as his Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Bevin, who held strong anti-communist views, played an important role in the acceptance of the Marshall Plan, the creation of NATO and Britain’s decision to develop nuclear weapons.
His defects revealed themselves in a scepticism towards the new Israel and to a wider European Community.
According Harold Wilson Clement Attlee relied heavily on Bevin during his six years in power. Bevin’s main rival in the cabinet was Herbert Morrison whom he disliked. A fellow minister, Harold Wilson explained: “Ernie Bevin could not stand Herbert Morrison, who had been a City boss when Bevin had been head of one of the biggest unions and the two had clashed…’ A fellow MP, Robert Boothby tells the story of how the two men loathed each other. When a MP said to Bevin that “Morrison was his own worst enemy”, he replied, “Not while I’m alive he ain’t.” In very poor health, Bevin resigned from Attlee’s government in March 1951. Ernest Bevin died the following month on 14th April, 1951.(Ack: www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk
Please refer-Their Shining Moment-bevin
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The 1909 People’s Budget was a product of then British Prime Minister H. H. Asquith’s Liberal government, introducing many unprecedented taxes on the wealthy and radical social welfare programmes to Britain’s political life. It was championed by Chancellor of the Exchequer David Lloyd George and his strong ally Winston Churchill, who was then President of the Board of Trade.
According to Churchill’s biographer, William Manchester, the Budget “a revolutionary concept” because it was the first budget in British history with the expressed intent of redistributing wealth among the British public. It was a key issue of contention between the Liberal government and the Conservative-dominated House of Lords, ultimately leading to two general elections in 1910 and the enactment of the Parliament Act 1911.
Lloyd George’s 1909 People’s Budget was devised to bring about social reform and featured increases in income tax and excise duties, new taxes on cars, petrol and land, and a new supertax for those with incomes above £5,000.
The first speech reproduced here dates from the immediate aftermath of the Budget. It was a sensitive period; the government’s supporters had responded favourably to the Budget, but its author had to assess carefully the fighting spirit manifested by the Opposition. He well knew that A. J. Balfour, the Conservative leader, zealously eyeing the prospect of a return to power, was facing pressure from his supporters to engineer a dissolution of parliament.
Many elements in society – landowners, financiers, brewers and the licensed trade – were up in arms against the Budget.
It was against this background that on the evening of 30 July 1909, Lloyd George, fulfilling a promise made a month earlier, addressed an audience of 4,000 at the Edinburgh Castle in Limehouse, one of the poorest areas of the East End of London. There he delivered not the best, but the most famous and possibly most effective speech of his life. (ack:www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~semp/budget.htm)
(to be cont’d)
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From the outset the Allies found stymied by Stalin’s hot and cold approach even when he was pestering them for material help. Following the Atlantic Conference in 1941 Churchill sent Lord Beaverbrook while Avrell Harriman from Roosevelt was included. The delegation had service members to help them with assessing actual needs of Russia. Their discussions were frustrating and in Harriman’s words ‘ pretty hard sledding.’ There were also moments of surprise and warmth. General Hastings Ismay, Churchill’s personal representative on the Services committee found Russian soldiery,- from top to lower ranks, was very finicky about saluting. Ismay’s Marine orderly once reported his embarrassment of commanding salutes at every turn by Russian officers but his superior let him a free hand saying, ‘ acknowledge their compliments handsomely’. This Marine in his impressive blue uniform was one day being given a guided tour. The Intourist guide showed a building and said,’This is Eden Hotel, formerly Ribbentrop Hotel’. A little later, ‘We are on the Churchill street, formerly Hitler street. The guide pointing to the Railway station intoned,’The Beaverbrook railway station, formerly Goering railway station..’ Stopping short the guide offered a cigarette,’Will you have one, comrade?’
The Marine took it and thanked, ‘Thank you comrade, formerly bastard!’
When Ismay later reported this to Churchill he relished it so much it became a standard joke, one among his repertoire of after-dinner pleasantries.
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Posted in essays, tagged Ahimsa, Buddha, Constitution, corrupt nation, Dalit, Gandhi, Ms. Mayawati, Nehruvian model.India, union, unprincipled politicians, Winston Churchill on February 9, 2011|
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I shall begin by quoting Churchill and also end with him.
India is not a geographical reality anymore than as Churchill had observed,’the equator is’. In short India is what every Indian would make of a concept of union of certain states. Of course historically is a reality since we won freedom ‘at midnight’ in 1947 and subsequently we passed the Constitution by an act of Parliament into law. The Constitution is a visible proof of the will of people and it enshrines the union of all citizens; as such an union would expect every Indian to preserve it.
But how did we celebrate it for the past 61 years?
There has been without let up every community playing a communal card to serve its narrow ends. No cabinet was workable without giving adequate representation to the communities that considered themselves a power unto themselves. Of course Government passed some laws to give hitherto untouchables representation. We have even a Chief Minister who is a Dalit and what does she do? She shows she has indeed ‘arrived’ by spending crores of the public Exchequer for elevating herself in public memory. We have Taj Mahal built by a Mughal emperor to perpetuate his eternal sorrow for his queen and was she moved by such archetypal emotions as love and bereavement? Ms. Mayawati knows she would not be missed by the end of her term in office. Naturally she has safeguarded the lapse of public memory by the powers bestowed on her. The charter of Constitution means many things to many and to the ilk of Ms. Mayawati it is a license to indulge in the worst excesses of vanity.
The other day I read a news item that a DSP who is in charge of her security detail stooped himself to wipe her sandals. Remarkable to see officers in India who has completely effaced their dignity to this level. Having seen the manner politicians bend backwards to please narrow vested interests and represent them I am immune to such abject abasement. Constitution means securing power and some are willing to pander to it totally!
So we have a Constitution but who I wonder has ever read it with care as to understand its intent? 28 percent of MPs as the CVC PJ Thomas claimed the other day, are criminally charge-sheeted. Of course he has, as implied in his words, been under a cloud and a charge-sheet has been served on him. How come the Center has let him to be Chief Vigilance Commissioner? The Caesar put away his wife on the principle ‘Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.’ Julius Caesar as we know ‘was wife to everyman and husband to every woman.’ But then Romans loved their Caesars to be above every rule including moral laws. A Caesar can flout all laws of middle class decency but in the modern India even Chief Vigilance Commissioner ought to be clean, absolutely. Anything less would be like taking the millions of Indians for granted. The elected representative does not think of himself bound to be a citizen, laying the highest example in honor of his position. It is in a way showing his courtesy to the people he is called to serve. Whatever may be their shortcomings both Morarji Desai and Sardar Patel had rectitude and courage of their convictions. The latter even forbade his sons from wheeling and dealing from his official residence. The iron man didn’t even want a smell of suspicion cling to him. Instead we have politicians extending both arms to shield those who are criminals. Politicians who are partial to the lawless and ‘tainted’ individuals with a view to votes and advancement in their political career are laying ground for every sort of mischief possible. They even condone ‘contributions’ as means to secure votes. It is thus how all good intentions are slowly eroded. Mr. PJ Thomas as an individual forgets himself that he with a criminal charge against him he cannot be an arbiter, and the Cabinet pretends everything will turn out all right if no one makes a fuss about it. This is how citizen and his elected representatives govern the nation, with their minds not fully engaged.
From that stirring speech from the ramparts of Delhi Jawaharlal Nehru spoke of a tryst with destiny.’ Then came a license Raj as a sop to some business houses. Nehruvian model was not homespun like Khadi but from ‘socialism’ that he imbibed in his school days in England. If our national life is blighted by missed opportunites and puerile ideals of our leaders what have we done to counter them? Those who toadied upto the British and stirred the base passions as to religion and community, they now openly pass for the voice of ‘moral order!’
Is it to be wondered then that we are ‘according to Transparency International, the world’s 87th most corrupt nation with an integrity score of 3.3? ‘
If we cannot live upto the highest ideals that we swear by we must not wonder why we have criminals laying our laws and speak platitudes. Our spiritual fathers were not living in the best of times but their highest standards set for themselves came out inspite of the worst excesses of their times. Mahatma Gandhi didn’t ape the British in order to become the father of the nation. Living as he did among conflicts his ideals connected with a great soul of ancient times. Gautama Buddha didn’t live when non-violence was the norm. But his spiritual strength to find a Golden Mean made millions of men in Asia find a standard to live by. Paradoxically India is his birthplace and we allow violence as a matter of course. If one group will right the past wrongs by destroying an old archaeological landmark those who were in power pretended as though did not see it.
If the Center cannot ensure religion to be kept in its place our secular claims are suspect and of little worth. If our leaders do not have courage of their opinions how can the Constitution be held up as a venerable article?
Here is a mail received this morning from one of my friends:
Sir Winston Churchill argument against granting india / Pakistan Independence
“Power will go to rascals, rogues, freebooters. . . .
All leaders will be of low caliber; and men of straw. . .
They’ll have sweet tongues; and silly hearts. . .
They will fight amongst themselves for power; and the two countries will be lost in political squabbles. . . .
A day would come when even air and water will be taxed.
He wrote this 64 years ago. . .
Incredibly we’ve worked very hard to prove him right. . .
(Funny I was checking the Google for this particular quote without success and to get it as soon as I wrote this piece! Is it not something fortuitous? Coincidence pure and simple!-b)
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Posted in anecdotes, tagged Daniel O'Connell, debate, democracy, Dizzy, Legislative Assembly, Lloyd George, Madras, Neville Chamberlain, parliament, S.Satyamurthy, The British Raj, Westminster, Winston Churchill on June 2, 2010|
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Once when David Lloyd George was speaking in the House of Commons, a member of the opposition kept on interrupting him.’Give him dynamite,’ one of his supporters urged. To which the Welsh Wizard
replied:‘Why should I waste ammunition when insect powder would do as well?’
The last great speech of David Lloyd was made after the debacle in the Norwegian campaign, in the early days of WWII. On this occasion Churchill chose to defend the Chamberlain government. Lloyd George turned to him and said,’My Rt. Hon’ble friend should not convert himself into an air raid shelter to prevent the splinters of public opinion hitting his new-found friends.
Once in a debate in the House, on being scoffed at by Daniel O’Connell for being a Jew, Disraeli retorted: ’Yes, I am a Jew when the ancestors of the Rt. Hon’ble Gentleman were brutal savage in an unknown world, when mine were priests in the Temple of Solomon.’
4. While defending his first budget, Satyamurthy’s interruptions prompted the Finance Minister,Sir James Grigg to say thus:’ The Hon’ble member must face ugly facts.’
Satyamurthy who was seated just opposite to the Minister shot back ‘That’s what I am doing here day by day.’ This felicitous remark brought laughter from all including Sir. James Grigg.
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