Ernest Bevin was a great figure of British politics in the second quarter of the 20th century. As a trade union leader, minister of labour during the Second World War and foreign secretary in the 1945 Labour government, he fought Nazism and communism. A pro-empire socialist patriot, he knew and loved power, and wielded it in the service of the organised British working class. He is the subject of a new biography by Andrew Adonis. Heavily reliant on previous Bevin biographies, Adonis offers a nice line in comparisons between Bevin’s and his own political experiences and a lot of respect for his subject. The result is a book that is better researched than Boris Johnson’s biography of Churchill by an author who is much less self-obsessed.
There is an obvious political motivation for Adonis in writing this book now, which is to respond to the mess the British Labour Party has managed to get itself into in recent years. Whether this process started before, during or after the governments in which Adonis was himself a minister