21 MAY 1948, Page 2

Mr. Bevan Off the Rails

Mr. Bevan, like Mr. Shinwell, regularly lets his tongue run away with him when he gets on a public platform. Nothing could be more grotesquely inept than his objurgations on the Press at Scar- borough on Sunday. A week or two after the Minister of State, Mr. Hector McNeil, had been claiming at Geneva, with much truth, that the British Press was the best in the world, the Minister of Health describes it as " the most prostituted Press in the world, most of it owned by a gang of millionaires " and " pumping a deadly poison into the public mind week by week." How this stuff may have sounded only those who heard it can say. Seen in cold print it is just clotted nonsense. And if it reflects on anyone it is on the rank and file of the Labour Party up and down the country. Week in and week out they absorb "deadly poison" for pleasure. Some to,000,000 of them voted Labour at the last election ; the circulation of the Daily Herald is something over 2,000,0oo. What do the rest read ? Just poison ; and so, without doubt, does Mr. Bevan himself. (It is no reply to say that the Daily Herald's circulation is pegged by paper shortage ; no more people wanted to read it in days when they could have.) But Mr. Bevan is, after all, a Minister of the Crown, with some standards to observe. What is the sense in this kind of diatribe ? He knows perfectly well that Mr. McNeil's estimate of the British Press is sound. All he means is that most of the British Press is Conservative. Everyone who heard him knew that that was what he meant. And what does he gain by wantonly and gratuitously antagonising the Press ? Does he prefer its opposi- tion to its support in his social reform campaigns ?