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EXPANSIVE MIND

NEW FOREIGN CHIEF Ernest Bevin Has Double Sense Of Big Events The popular idea of the present Minister of Labour and -National Service as the "tough guy" of the War Cabinet is not altogether untrue, but is far from the whole truth, wrote a correspondent of the London Observer after an interview with him in December, 1942. True, he does not suffer casual interviewers gladly. After all, he has other things to do and those things are what matter. You go away feeling that there is no doubt about his being a big man,, but that the public is quite right. "The first British statesman to have been born a working man and remained one"—some such phrase seems to sum him up. And then you realise that you have missed the point of most of what he actually said to you and that he is a far more complicated proposition than you had any idea of while you were talking to him.

Practical Imagination

Ernest Bevin is one of nature's intellectuals. His mind is farreaching, powerful, above all creative; lacking only that tidiness, that economy of method which a prolonged education would have given him—at what price one cannot say. (Other Labour leaders, with a more formal education than Bevin, may have tidy minds, but they lack his glorious expansiveness.) Bevin has a Cecil Rhodes type of practical imagination. He has that same double sense of big events, nurtured partly in the WQmb of history, partly in the intellects of big men with big conceptions.

He has built a Union of 950,000 men, but he is conscious that the tide of the century has flowed irresistibly in his favour. "None of us—Ben Tillett and those fellows— ever dreamed that we'd see all this in our lifetime." He gives a supreme impression of being on the same side as history, but of having no intention that history should have things all her own way.

The Minister of Labour is sometimes spoken, of as a future Prime Minister. He himself disclaims all political ambitions. But, then, who among the mighty does not?

Any critics would be reassured* if they talked to Bevin. i No man has less pent-up bitterness. Perhaps because if he has anything • unpleasant to say he says it to a man's face—as when he .trounced poor Lansbury at the famous "sanctions" Conference of the Labour Party at Brighton in 1935. He detests class differences ("I want us all to be one family and have no classes within the State"), but he is convinced that they are fast vanishing. The war is

MA J.-GENERAL SIR MONTAGUE STOPFORD, Commander of the British Twelfth Army in Burma. The Twelfth Army, according to an announcement from South-east Asia Command, is the force attacking the Japanese trapped in the Sittang River bend. It is made up of British, Indian, Gurkha and African troops.

hastening the process. "Won't there," you ask, "always be a few people living oh capital in luxury hotels?" "I don't want to be unkind to anyone," he replies, and you think for once that he is going to talk red revolution, "but I couldn't wish them any worse fate than to have to go on living in one of those places for ever." A Nation of Craftsmen The money side of the social revolution he reckons will look after itself. The real problem comes with the effort to make England a nation of craftsmen, as she'll have to be if she is to continue to lead the world. And here it must be all levelling up in terms of skill. Compulsory education up to eighteen is essential, and the whole people must be trained far more than ever before in the use of their hands. "You don't realise," he says, "what a world of difference the shorter hours that came after the last war have made to the life of the people." You ask him whether any complications haven't resulted when it comes to intensifying the war effort. He answers "Why, .all the big inventions we've made in this war have come from the leisure industries. Even an intellectual must have heard of radio-location. You'd never have had the radio industry developed if the workers hadn't had time and money for their wireless sets." "What do you think of the intellectuals?" you manage to get out as the secretaries lay their hands on you for the last time. "Oh!" he returns, grinning, "they've got their uses—even in war-time."

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/AS19450728.2.28

Bibliographic details

EXPANSIVE MIND, Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 177, 28 July 1945

Word Count
749

EXPANSIVE MIND Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 177, 28 July 1945

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