Chapter XV
BEVERIDGE BOOM AND BOYCOTT

What I planned to do in life has again and again been prevented by events beyond my control, yet on each occasion I found something else worth doing.

Farewell Address to Undergraduates in University College, Oxford, March 11, 1945.


I. Public Reception of Report: the Boom

T HE public interest in my Report on Social Insurance and Allied Services had been manifest long before the Report was published. So also had the uneasiness of the Government, both as to the extent of the public interest and as to what the Report might contain. In the event, all reasonable expectations as to reception of the Report were surpassed in both directions.

The public boom in the Report was overwhelming. I became at a blow one of the best-known characters in the country. As one American commentator put it: "Sir William, possibly next to Mr. Churchill, is the most popular figure in Britain today." As another American commentator put it: "Sir William is not a good speaker, but he can overfill any hall in England." A Gallup Poll of public opinion based on sample interviews everywhere was taken in the second week after publication of the Report and yielded unprecedented results. "Nineteen in every twenty adults had heard of the Beveridge Report at the time of the Survey.... There was overwhelming agreement that the Beveridge Plan should be put into effect."

One of the pleasantest features of the boom was that, though my name and features became known to everybody through illustrated papers and films, I remained a private citizen going about in omnibuses and third-class compartments; I was not a functionary with an escort.

More than once I caught young women surreptitiously sketching me as they sat opposite me in the train between Oxford and Paddington; if I liked the looks of the young woman, as I generally did, I asked to be shown the result and autographed it for her. Walking along Regent Street one day on the way to my Bruton Street office, I was picked up

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