My grandfather was a proud member of the Labour Party, a Transport and General Workers’ Union shop steward and, in his words, ‘a proper socialist’. And his proudest boast, made often, was ‘I met Ernie Bevin’.
If some lives seem to personify something in politics (perhaps like Lincoln, for example), Bevin personifies something about the history and aspirations of the labour movement. His mother had been deserted by her husband many years before Ernest was born: Bevin, it seems, never knew his father. Interestingly, no one knows whether he ever married his lifelong partner is not known. His schooling was patchy, and he took took a series of low skilled jobs, ending up as a van driver for a mineral water firm in Bristol. If ever a man came from a genuinely disadvantaged background, Bevin was that man.
Another aspect of Bevin’s life gives us another strand of Labour history…
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