We know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road. They get run down.Such is the importance of his role in the creation of the National Health Service that the idea of criticising Aneurin Bevan is equivalent in my psyche to that of criticising Winston Churchill. Shamefully I know little about this lifelong adversary of Churchill except for a few choice quotes, including the one above though it’s not a comment I care for. Voltaire said “Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too”, but I find it difficult to square this message of tolerance with Bevan’s warning on indecision. I read it as more of a threat; get out of the way (or else) whilst we give battle to the Tory “vermin”.
Many years ago I saw an interview with a young member of an anti-fascist group; he use to be a fascist, he explained, but now he hated them. Commendable perhaps, but at the time I wondered whether it was hatred that continued to fuel his day, and the behaviour of numerous direct action groups since has done little to dispel this suspicion. They were different times and I suppose it’s not so much Bevan’s comment that concerns me; it’s the decision of others to revere it today. I much prefer “The purpose of getting power is to be able to give it away”, it sounds almost Thatcherite.