Alan Johnson

It was Bevin, not Bevan, who was the real national treasure

On a family holiday almost 40 years ago I visited Winsford, the village on the edge of Exmoor where Ernest Bevin was born (and Boris Johnson was raised). Having read the first book in Alan Bullock’s scholarly three-volume biography, I’d become a convinced Bevinite (not to be confused with the followers of Nye Bevan, his

Andrew Adonis: how Ernest Bevin was Labour’s Churchill

43 min listen

In this week’s books podcast I’m joined by Alan Johnson and Andrew Adonis to talk about the latter’s new biography of a neglected great of British political history: Ernest Bevin: Labour’s Churchill. He was, in Andrew’s estimation, the man who did most to save Europe from Stalin. So why has Bevin been so forgotten? In

Teebee or not Teebee

On the day that Tony Blair left the Commons chamber for the last time (to a standing ovation led by the leader of the opposition) I was moved from Education to Health and, a few days later, was to accompany the new prime minister on his first official engagement — to a hospital in Kingston-upon-Thames.

Diary – 28 February 2019

The separation between ‘members’ and ‘strangers’ always struck me as being one of the most archaic aspects of the House of Commons. When Natasha Barley, the brilliant director of the Children’s University in Hull, asked me (as the charity’s patron) to arrange a meeting with the Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, I felt obliged to accompany

Of hearts and heads

Like most trade unionists in the 1970s and 80s I worked with a fair few communists. Men like Dickie Lawlor, Jock Cowan and Maurice Styles, postal workers for whom all events were viewed through the prism of ‘scientific socialism’. Communism gave them a philosophy by which to live their lives, and they were respected as

Our leaders have betrayed the noble worker. Oh really?

In his essay on the ‘Peculiarities of the English’, E.P. Thompson gave his theoretical definition of class: When we speak of a class we are thinking of a very loosely defined body of people who share the same congeries of interests, social experiences, traditions and value-system, who have a disposition to behave as a class,

We have not betrayed a generation

Impatience for improvements in education is something I share. It is not a new phenomenon: in 1439 William Bingham, a London rector, petitioned Henry VI about the ‘great scarcity of masters of grammar’. What amazes me in the modern age is our collective complacency on education since the war. The independent National Foundation for Educational