Earlier this week on BBC Radio 4 Anne McElvoy explored an unlikely marriage between social researchers Beatrice Potter and Sidney Webb and the profound effect their union would have on the story of British socialism.
Beatrice and Sidney first met at a Fabian Society meeting in 1985 and went on to become livelong collaborators. Together, the couple inspired the creation of the welfare state, wrote the Labour party’s first policy and founded the New Statesman & the LSE.
In the episode, Baroness Hayter reflects on the characteristics of the early Fabian Society:
At one point the society became known as gas and water socialism. In the other words, you needed state intervention to provide the basis for a better life. Whether that was education, or health, or school meals or indeed the provision of clean water, of energy and gas. Very much looking toward the state as the method towards providing a better society. They were quite distinct from revolutionary socialists, they wanted to make this change by persuasion, and indeed elections.
Baroness Hayter is a vice president of the Fabian Society having formerly served as society chair and general secretary.