Bevin, the international realist

Hans Kundnani profiles the Labour foreign secretary who was present at Nato’s birth

The World Today
2 minute READ

Ernest Bevin, one of the greatest foreign secretaries Britain has ever had and a hugely important figure in the history of the British left, is now largely forgotten. Yet at a time when the Labour party is divided between centre-left Blairites and far-left Corbynistas, Bevin matters because he reminds us that a radical, redistributive economic policy and a realistic, robust foreign policy can go together.

Growing up in the West Country, Bevin left school at 11 and, after working as a carter, became a trade union organizer in Bristol. In 1922, he became the first general secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, which, by the time of the Second World War, was probably the most powerful trade union in the world.

Subscribe to read all issues

Articles from the current issue are free to read by all, the archive is exclusive to magazine subscribers and our members. Subscribe or become a member to view articles from the archive.