The Labour Party: Aneurin Bevan’s Socialist Ideal or a Cosy Consensus?

Aneurin Bevan and the Socialist Ideal:

Aneurin Bevan and the Socialist Ideal 

Professor Vernon Bogdanor 

Aneurin Bevan was the leading postwar representative in Britain of the socialist ideal. He is best remembered for the creation of the National Health Service which he regarded as a symbol of applied socialism, a national service free at the point of use and available to all. But, even before he resigned from the postwar Labour government in 1951, this ideal was being eroded.

If Aneurin Bevan had been the Labour leader, or held a more senior ministerial position in government, perhaps we would be living in a different Britain today. He was, as Tony Benn describes him, Labour’s last great teacher. Born in Tredegar, a working class spokesman for socialism, he would be disappointed that the Labour Party did not achieve his ideals. He would be horrified with Thatcherism and Blairite’s Third Way.

Also from Tredegar, Dennis Skinner, has the wit to out manoeuvre David Cameron, as he speaks with truth and passion. Who will be Labour’s next great teacher and inspire the working class once again? Who will satisfy an electorate thirsty for straight talking politics delivering the policies for a people’s recovery? Has the affluent society led the working class to a suffocating apathy? Has capitalism led the working class, like a Pied Piper into a hopeless dead end  cavern?

An impassioned Owen Jones writes of a Cosy Consensus in politics today.

..On the key questions of our time, many senior politicians are at one. They are committed to devastating cuts, differing only on degree and timing. They believe in the supremacy of market economics, including allowing private profiteers to make a fast buck out of our public services. They oppose challenging the supremacy of the City, or making Britain’s booming wealthy pay a significantly higher share of tax. Mission, belief and passion have been stripped from politics so that – even at a time of crisis – it risks becoming a bland managerial contest.


Historically, it has been Labour’s role to challenge wealth and power. If its leadership is unable to do so – whether it be through lack of courage or conviction – a vacuum will be left. In such turbulent times, that vacuum will be filled. The cosy consensus of the professionalised political elite may be suffocating, but it is not sustainable. A perceptive eye can notice the cracks and observe that – with a bit of a shove – the whole edifice could shatter.

Today’s electorate knows what this country needs, and is waiting for some straight-talking and policies for a People’s recovery from the damage of a failed Thatcherite experiment. Speak up, Labour. Make the most of this opportunity.  Don’t leave it too late.

Aneurin Bevan and the Socialist Ideal: Gresham College Lecture  Professor Vernon Bogdanor 

Independent: The Cosy Consensus, Owen Jones 

Straight Talking Labour, Think Left 

Parliament of the People, Think Left

5 thoughts on “The Labour Party: Aneurin Bevan’s Socialist Ideal or a Cosy Consensus?

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