Friday, 20 November 2009

Ernest Bevan

Or was it Aneurin Bevin? Either way, there was apparently a Labour PPB this week. Yes, I also mananged to miss it. Did anyone, anyone at all, actually see it? Well, enough to notice that the makers did not know the difference between Bevin and Bevan. Seriously.

Bevin refused to join the European Coal and Steel Community on the grounds that it was “the blueprint for a federal state” which “the Durham miners would never wear”. In that tradition, Gaitskell rejected European federalism as “the end of a thousand years of history” and liable to destroy the Commonwealth.

Most Labour MPs voted against Heath’s Treaty of Rome. The Parliamentary Labour Party unanimously opposed Thatcher’s Single European Act. 66 Labour MPs voted against Maastricht, including, in Bryan Gould, the only resignation from either front bench in order to do so. Every Labour MP, without exception, voted against the Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policies annually between 1979 and 1997.

Half of the French Socialist Party successfully opposed the EU Constitution. Half of the UKIP vote, based on its geographical distribution, must be Old Labour or Old Liberal rather than Old Tory. And the No2EU – Yes To Democracy list at the 2009 European Elections included in London Peter Shore’s erstwhile agent.

Bevan, meanwhile, rejected class war, speaking instead of “a platform broad enough for all to stand upon” which “makes war upon a system, not upon a class”. He ridiculed the first parliamentary Welsh Day on the grounds that “Welsh coal is the same as English coal and Welsh sheep are the same as English sheep”.

In that tradition were those Labour MPs who in the 1970s successfully opposed Scottish and Welsh devolution not least because of its ruinous effects on the North of England. Those Labour activists in the Scottish Highlands, Islands and Borders, and in North, Mid and West Wales, who accurately predicted that their areas would be balefully neglected under devolution. The enormous No vote to the North East Regional Assembly in traditionally Labour areas.

The feeling among English, Scottish and Welsh ethnic minorities and Catholics that they no more want to go down the road of who is or is not “really” English, Scottish or Welsh than Ulster Protestants want to go down the road of who is or is not “really” Irish.

And the historic success of the Welfare State (not least, Bevan’s NHS), workers’ rights, full employment, a strong Parliament, trade unions, co-operatives, credit unions, mutual guarantee societies, mutual building societies, and nationalised industries (often with the word “British” in their names) in creating communities of interest among and across the several parts of the United Kingdom, thus safeguarding and strengthening the Union.

Bevin sold out national sovereignty and the Commonwealth by joining NATO. And Bevan denounced the just war tradition of Christendom by supporting nuclear weapons. But no one’s perfect.


  1. Will you be writing about this on your Telegraph blog?

  2. Will you be reading the comments on existing posts here?

  3. He's on the dollar now.

  4. No more off-topic comments will be put up.