Posts Tagged ‘Roberspierre’

Nye Bevan and the Tory Sneer about ‘Champagne Socialists’

March 5, 2016

Remember in the 1980s when Thatcher went around sneering at middle class socialists and Labour supporters as ‘champagne socialists?’ It became one of the favourite put-downs of the Tory press, along with the cry of ‘Loony left’. It wasn’t an original sneer by any means. Back in the 1940s, similar things were said of Nye Bevan. Eric Hopkins, in his book, The Rise and Decline of the English Working Classes 1918-1990: A Social History (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson 1991) notes that after he got into parliament, Bevan acquired ‘sophisticated tastes and wealthy friends, including Lord Beaverbrook. This annoyed one of Beaverbrook’s other friends, Brendan Bracken, who is supposed to have called Bevan to his face ‘a Bollinger Bolshevik’, ‘ritzy Robespierre’ and ‘lounge lizard Lenin’. (p. 96).

Well, that’s what they called the former Tredegar miner, who set up the National Health Service. The short answer to the sneer should have been ‘that’s what they called the best of us. It didn’t wash on him, and it doesn’t wash on us. Sticks and stones etc.’

It was a pathetic insult, but unfortunately it did convince some people that Maggie was somehow more ‘working class’ than the Socialists who genuinely were interested in working people’s welfare.

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