Last modified on 30 January 2008, at 12:20

Aneurin Bevan

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Aneurin Bevan (1897-1960) (commonly called Nye Bevan) was a British left wing socialist politician and cabinet minister in the post-war Labour government of Clement Attlee.

Bevan was born in Tredegar, Monmouthshire, in south Wales; his father was a coal miner and Bevan himself started work in the pits at the age of 13. He became a trade union activist, and was converted to Marxism while on a scholarship to the union-supported Central Labour College in London. Returning to south Wales in 1921, he found himself blacklisted, and did not work again until 1924. In 1926 he became a full time miners' union official and in 1929 was elected to Parliament as Labour MP for Ebbw Vale. A spokesman for the left wing of the Labour Party, he was expelled for some months in 1939 for supporting a United Front of the Labour Party and Communist Party of Great Britain.

During the war he agitated for the opening of a 'Second Front' in western Europe to relieve pressure on the Soviet Union, and was described by Winston Churchill (whom Bevan had supported for the premiersjhip in 1940) as "a squalid nuisance."

In 1945 Bevan was made Minister of Health in the new Labour government, an onerous role that included responsibility for housing as well as health matters. He is remembered partly for his work in bringing about the construction of some hundreds of thousands of municipal houses despite severe shortages of materials, but mainly for his role in creating the National Health Service, which was inaugurated on 5 July 1948. Bevan was made Minister of Labour in 1951 but resigned from the cabinet, with Harold Wilson and John Freeman, in protest at the decision by Chancellor of the Exchequer Hugh Gaitskell to impose charges for spectacles and dentures.

-tbc-