Ernest Bevin: Portrait of a Great Englishman

Ernest Bevin: Portrait of a Great Englishman

Ernest Bevin: Portrait of a Great Englishman

Ernest Bevin: Portrait of a Great Englishman

Excerpt

I am proud to be allowed to contribute a Foreword to this portrait of a great Englishman whose friendship I had the honour to enjoy and with whom I worked so closely during a fateful period in our history.

Ernest Bevin was one of the outstanding men of his generation. He was a very great man. In this book, which I have read with great admiration, Mr.Francis Williams has given a full and admirable description of his career up to the time when he became a Minister of the Crown and has outlined the most significant events of the final years when the greatest Trade Unionist of Ms time became one of the leaders of the nation in war and then strode on to the world stage as Foreign Minister of the United Kingdom.

This last stage of his career will no doubt be the subject of many books in the future as the events in which he played so leading a part pass into history. But whatever is written this volume will remain of the greatest value to all who wish to understand the background to the life of the statesman.

I did not know Bevin well until 1940. I had, of course, frequently met him and had served with him on committees, but our contacts had been official. After 1931 he had a great suspicion of politicians and, indeed, failed to understand the conditions in which they worked--so different from those which he experienced in the Trade Union Movement. But when we became fellow members of the War-time Administration we soon became friends and during the War we worked together in great harmony. I soon realized three things: first, his great loyalty to his colleagues; second, his great administrative ability and the breadth of his knowledge; and third, his power of inspiring affection in all those who worked for him. I also recognized his great skill in negotiation. He had had to meet some pretty tough opponents in his Trade Union days and had benefited by the experience.

It has often been recalled how I hesitated as to whether he should be Foreign Secretary or Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Government which I formed. He would have made a great mark in either position but I think the decision I made was right. Britain was facing a difficult position as a great power which had temporarily been gravely weakened. It needed a very strong personality to counterbalance this as far as possible.

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