Cambridge Encyclopedia » Cambridge Encyclopedia Vol. 5

Aneurin Bevan - Youth, Government, Backbenches

labour party health minister

British statesman, born in Tredegar, Blaenau Gwent, SE Wales, UK. One of 13 children of a miner, he began work in the pits at 13. Active in trade unionism in the South Wales coalfield, he led the Welsh miners in the 1926 General Strike. He joined the Labour Party (1931), establishing a reputation as an irreverent and often tempestuous orator. He was Labour MP for Ebbw Vale (1929–60). In 1934 he married Jennie Lee. Appointed minister of health and housing in the 1945 Labour government, he introduced the revolutionary National Health Service (1948). He became minister of labour in 1951, but resigned the same year over the National Health charges proposed in the Budget. From this period dated Bevanism, the left-wing movement to make the Labour Party more socialist and less ‘reformist’, which made him the centre of prolonged disputes with his party leaders. He ceased to be a Bevanite at the 1957 Brighton party conference, when he opposed a one-sided renunciation of the hydrogen bomb by Britain.

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