Clement Richard Attlee, 1st Earl Attlee, KG, OM, CH, PC, FRS (3
January 1883 – 8 October 1967) was a British statesman of the Labour
Party who served as
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1945 to
1951 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1935 to 1955. In 1940, Attlee
took Labour into the wartime coalition government and served under
Winston Churchill, becoming the first person to hold the office of
Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He went on to lead the
Labour Party to an unexpected landslide victory at the 1945 general
election; forming the first Labour majority government, and a mandate
to implement its postwar reforms. The 12.0% national swing from the
Conservatives to Labour was unprecedented at that time and remains the
largest ever achieved by any party at a general election in British
He was re-elected with a narrow majority at the 1950 general election.
In the following year, Attlee called a snap general election, hoping
to increase his parliamentary majority. However, he was narrowly
defeated by the Conservatives under the leadership of Winston
Churchill, despite winning the most votes of any political party in
any general election in British political history until the
Conservative Party's fourth consecutive victory in 1992. Attlee
remains the longest-ever serving Leader of the Labour Party.
First elected to the House of Commons in 1922 as the MP for Limehouse,
Attlee rose quickly to become a junior minister in the first Labour
minority government led by
Ramsay MacDonald in 1924, and then joined
the Cabinet during MacDonald's second ministry of 1929–31. One of
only a handful of Labour frontbenchers to retain his seat in the
landslide defeat of 1931, he became the party's Deputy Leader. After
the resignation of
George Lansbury in 1935, he was elected as Leader
of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition in the subsequent
leadership election. At first advocating pacificism and opposing
rearmament, he later reversed his position; by 1938, he became a
strong critic of Neville Chamberlain's attempts to appease Adolf
Hitler and Benito Mussolini. He took Labour into the Churchill war
ministry in 1940. Initially serving as Lord Privy Seal, he was
appointed as Deputy Prime Minister in 1942. Attlee and Churchill
worked together very smoothly, with Attlee working backstage to handle
much of the detail and organisational work in Parliament, as Churchill
took centre stage with his attention on diplomacy, military policy,
and broader issues. With victory in Europe in May 1945, the coalition
government was dissolved. Attlee led Labour to win a huge majority in
the ensuing 1945 general election two months later.
The government he led built the post-war consensus, based upon the
assumption that full employment would be maintained by Keynesian
policies and that a greatly enlarged system of social services would
be created – aspirations that had been outlined in the 1942
Beveridge Report. Within this context, his government undertook the
nationalisation of public utilities and major industries, as well as
the creation of the National Health Service. Attlee himself had little
interest in economic matters but this settlement was broadly accepted
by all parties for three decades. Foreign policy was the special
domain of Ernest Bevin, but Attlee took special interest in India. He
supervised the process by which India was partitioned into India and
Pakistan in 1947. He also arranged the independence of Burma
Ceylon (Sri Lanka). His government ended the British
Mandates of Palestine and Jordan. From 1947 onwards, he and Bevin
United States to take a more vigorous role in the emerging
Cold War against Soviet Communism. When the budgetary crisis forced
Britain out of Greece in 1947, he called on Washington to counter the
Communists with the Truman Doctrine. He avidly supported the
Marshall Plan to rebuild Western Europe with American money. In 1949,
he promoted the
NATO military alliance against the Soviet bloc. He
sent British troops to fight in the
Malayan Emergency in 1948 and sent
RAF to participate in the Berlin Airlift. He commissioned an
independent nuclear deterrent for the UK. He used 13,000 troops and
passed special legislation to promptly end the London dock strike in
1949. After leading Labour to a narrow victory at the 1950 general
election, he sent British troops to fight in the Korean War. Attlee
was narrowly defeated by the Conservatives under Churchill in the 1951
general election. He continued as Labour leader but had lost his
effectiveness by then. He retired after losing the 1955 general
election and was elevated to the House of Lords.
In public, Attlee was modest and unassuming; he was ineffective at
public relations and lacked charisma. His strengths emerged behind the
scenes, especially in committees where his depth of knowledge, quiet
demeanour, objectivity, and pragmatism proved decisive. His
achievements in politics owed much to lucky breaks and the
unsuitability of his rivals. He saw himself as spokesman on behalf
of his entire party and successfully kept its multiple factions in
harness. Attlee is consistently rated by scholars, critics and the
public as one of the greatest British Prime Ministers. His reputation
among scholars in recent decades has been much higher than during his
years as Prime Minister, thanks to his roles in leading the Labour
Party, creating the welfare state and building the coalition opposing
Stalin in the Cold War.
1 Early life and education
2 Early career
3 Military service during the First World War
4 Marriage and children
5 Early political career
5.1 Local politics
5.2 Member of Parliament
6 1930s opposition
6.1 Deputy Leader
6.2 Leader of the Opposition
7 Deputy Prime Minister
8 Prime Minister
8.1 1945 election
8.2 Domestic policy
8.2.4 Women and children
8.2.5 Planning and development
8.2.6 Workers' rights
8.3 Foreign policy
8.3.1 Europe and the Cold War
8.3.3 African colonies
8.4 1950 election
8.5 1951 election
9 Return to opposition
13 Statue of Clement Attlee
14 Styles of address
16 Religious views
17 Cultural depictions
18 Major legislation enacted during the Attlee Government
23 Further reading
23.2 Biographies of his Cabinet and associates
23.3 Scholarly studies
24 External links
Early life and education
Attlee was born in Putney,
Surrey (now part of London), into a middle
class family, the seventh of eight children. His father was Henry
Attlee (1841–1908), a solicitor, and his mother was Ellen Bravery
Watson (1847–1920), daughter of Thomas Simons Watson, secretary for
the Art Union of London. He was educated at Northaw School, a boys'
preparatory school near
Pluckley in Kent, Haileybury College, and
University College, Oxford, where in 1904 he graduated BA with
second-class honours in Modern History.
Attlee then trained as a barrister at the
Inner Temple and was called
to the Bar in March 1906. He worked for a time at his father's law
firm Druces and Attlee but did not enjoy the work, and had no
particular ambition to succeed in the legal profession. He also
played football for non-League club Fleet.
In 1906, he became a volunteer at Haileybury House, a charitable club
for working-class boys in
Stepney in the
East End of London
East End of London run by his
old school, and from 1907 to 1909 he served as the club's manager.
Until then, his political views had been more conservative. However,
after his shock at the poverty and deprivation he saw while working
with the slum children, he came to the view that private charity would
never be sufficient to alleviate poverty and that only direct action
and income redistribution by the state would have any serious effect.
This sparked a process that caused him to convert to socialism. He
subsequently joined the
Independent Labour Party
Independent Labour Party (ILP) in 1908 and
became active in local politics. In 1909, he stood unsuccessfully at
his first election, as an ILP candidate for
He also worked briefly as a secretary for
Beatrice Webb in 1909,
before becoming a secretary for Toynbee Hall. In 1911, he was employed
UK Government as an "official explainer"—touring the country
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Chancellor of the Exchequer David Lloyd George's National
Insurance Act. He spent the summer of that year touring
Somerset on a bicycle, explaining the Act at public meetings. A year
later, he became a lecturer at the London School of Economics.
Military service during the First World War
Following the outbreak of the
First World War
First World War in August 1914, Attlee
applied to join the British Army. Initially his application was turned
down, as at age 31 he was seen as too old; however, he was finally
allowed to join in September, and was commissioned in the rank of
Captain with the 6th (Service) Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment,
part of the 38th Brigade of the 13th (Western) Division, and was sent
to fight in the
Gallipoli Campaign in Turkey. His decision to fight
caused a rift between him and his older brother Tom, who, as a
conscientious objector, spent much of the war in prison.
After a period fighting in Gallipoli, he collapsed after falling ill
with dysentery and was put on a ship bound for
England to recover.
When he woke up he wanted to get back to action as soon as possible,
and asked to be let off the ship in
Malta where he stayed in hospital
to recover. His hospitalisation coincided with the Battle of Sari
Bair, which saw a large number of his comrades killed. Upon returning
to action, he was informed that his company had been chosen to hold
the final lines during the evacuation of Suvla. As such, he was the
penultimate man to be evacuated from Suvla Bay, the last being General
Frederick Stanley Maude.
Attlee (seen in the centre) in 1916, aged 33, whilst serving in
Gallipoli Campaign had been engineered by the First Lord of the
Admiralty, Winston Churchill. Although it was unsuccessful, Attlee
believed that it was a bold strategy, which could have been a success
if it had been better implemented on the ground. This gave him an
admiration for Churchill as a military strategist, which would make
their working relationship in later years productive.
He later served in the
Mesopotamian Campaign in what is now Iraq,
where in April 1916 he was badly wounded, being hit in the leg by
shrapnel while storming an enemy trench during the Battle of Hanna. He
was sent firstly to India, and then back to the UK to recover. In
February 1917, he was promoted to the rank of Major, leading him
to be known as "Major Attlee" for much of the inter-war period. He
would spend most of 1917 training soldiers at various locations in
England. From 2–9 July 1917, he was the temporary commanding
officer (CO) of the newly formed L (later 10th) Battalion, the Tank
Corps at Bovington Camp, Dorset. From 9 July, he assumed command of
30th Company of the same battalion however he did not deploy to France
with it in December 1917.
After fully recovering from his injuries, he was sent to France in
June 1918 to serve on the Western Front for the final months of the
war. After being discharged from the Army in January 1919, he returned
to Stepney, and returned to his old job lecturing part-time at the
London School of Economics.
Marriage and children
Attlee met Violet Millar while on a long trip with friends to Italy in
1921. She was the shy twin  and they bonded immediately. They were
soon engaged and were married at Christ Church, Hampstead, on 10
January 1922. It would come to be a devoted marriage, with Attlee
providing protection and Violet providing a home that was an escape
for Attlee from political turmoil. She died in 1964. They had four
Lady Janet Helen (born 1923); she married Harold Shipton at
Ellesborough Parish Church in 1947.
Lady Felicity Ann (1925–2007), married John Harwood at Little
Hampden in 1955
Martin Richard, Viscount Prestwood, later 2nd Earl Attlee
Lady Alison Elizabeth (1930–2016), married Richard Davis at
Great Missenden in 1952.
Early political career
Attlee returned to local politics in the immediate post-war period,
becoming mayor of the Metropolitan Borough of Stepney, one of London's
most deprived inner-city boroughs, in 1919. During his time as mayor,
the council undertook action to tackle slum landlords who charged high
rents but refused to spend money on keeping their property in
habitable condition. The council served and enforced legal orders on
homeowners to repair their property. It also appointed health visitors
and sanitary inspectors, reducing the infant mortality rate, and took
action to find work for returning unemployed ex-servicemen.
In 1920, while mayor, he wrote his first book, The Social Worker,
which set out many of the principles that informed his political
philosophy and that were to underpin the actions of his government in
later years. The book attacked the idea that looking after the poor
could be left to voluntary action. He wrote on page 30:
In a civilised community, although it may be composed of self-reliant
individuals, there will be some persons who will be unable at some
period of their lives to look after themselves, and the question of
what is to happen to them may be solved in three ways – they may be
neglected, they may be cared for by the organised community as of
right, or they may be left to the goodwill of individuals in the
and went on to say at page 75:
Charity is only possible without loss of dignity between equals. A
right established by law, such as that to an old age pension, is less
galling than an allowance made by a rich man to a poor one, dependent
on his view of the recipient's character, and terminable at his
In 1921, George Lansbury, the Labour mayor of the neighbouring borough
of Poplar, and future Labour Party leader, launched the Poplar Rates
Rebellion; a campaign of disobedience seeking to equalise the poor
relief burden across all the London boroughs. Attlee, who was a
personal friend of Lansbury strongly supported this, however Herbert
Morrison, the Labour mayor of nearby Hackney, and one of the main
figures in the London Labour Party, strongly denounced Lansbury and
the rebellion. During this period, Attlee developed a lifelong dislike
Member of Parliament
At the 1922 general election, Attlee became the Member of Parliament
(MP) for the constituency of Limehouse in Stepney. At the time, he
Ramsay MacDonald and helped him get elected as Labour Party
leader at the 1922 leadership election. He served as MacDonald's
Parliamentary Private Secretary
Parliamentary Private Secretary for the brief 1922 parliament. His
first taste of ministerial office came in 1924, when he served as
Under-Secretary of State for War in the short-lived first Labour
government, led by MacDonald.
Attlee opposed the 1926 General Strike, believing that strike action
should not be used as a political weapon. However, when it happened,
he did not attempt to undermine it. At the time of the strike, he was
chairman of the
Stepney Borough Electricity Committee. He negotiated a
deal with the Electrical Trade Union so that they would continue to
supply power to hospitals, but would end supplies to factories. One
firm, Scammell and Nephew Ltd, took a civil action against Attlee and
the other Labour members of the committee (although not against the
Conservative members who had also supported this). The court found
against Attlee and his fellow councillors and they were ordered to pay
£300 damages. The decision was later reversed on appeal, but the
financial problems caused by the episode almost forced Attlee out of
In 1927, he was appointed a member of the multi-party Simon
Royal Commission set up to examine the possibility of
granting self-rule to India. Due to the time he needed to devote to
the commission, and contrary to a promise MacDonald made to Attlee to
induce him to serve on the commission, he was not initially offered a
ministerial post in the Second Labour Government, which entered office
after the 1929 general election. Attlee's service on the
Commission equipped him with a thorough exposure to India and many of
its political leaders. By 1933 he argued that British rule was alien
to India and was unable to make the social and economic reforms
necessary for India's progress. He became the British leader most
sympathetic to Indian independence (as a dominion), preparing him for
his role in deciding on independence in 1947.
In May 1930, Labour MP
Oswald Mosley left the party after its
rejection of his proposals for solving the unemployment problem, and
Attlee was given Mosley's post of Chancellor of the Duchy of
Lancaster. In March 1931, he became Postmaster General, a post he held
for five months until August, when the Labour government fell, after
failing to agree on how to tackle the financial crisis of the Great
Depression. That month MacDonald and a few of his allies formed a
National Government with the Conservatives and Liberals, leading them
to be expelled from Labour. MacDonald offered Attlee a job in the
National Government, but he turned down the offer and opted to stay
loyal to the main Labour party.
Ramsay MacDonald formed the National Government, Labour was
deeply divided. Attlee had long been close to MacDonald and now felt
betrayed—as did most Labour politicians. During the course of the
second Labour government, Attlee had become increasingly disillusioned
with MacDonald, whom he came to regard as vain and incompetent, and of
whom he later wrote scathingly in his autobiography. He would
In the old days I had looked up to MacDonald as a great leader. He had
a fine presence and great oratorical power. The unpopular line which
he took during the
First World War
First World War seemed to mark him as a man of
character. Despite his mishandling of the Red Letter episode, I had
not appreciated his defects until he took office a second time. I then
realised his reluctance to take positive action and noted with dismay
his increasing vanity and snobbery, while his habit of telling me, a
junior Minister, the poor opinion he had of all his Cabinet colleagues
made an unpleasant impression. I had not, however, expected that he
would perpetrate the greatest betrayal in the political history of
this country... The shock to the Party was very great, especially to
the loyal workers of the rank-and-file who had made great sacrifices
for these men.
The 1931 general election held later that year was a disaster for the
Labour Party, which lost over 200 seats, returning only 52 MPs to
Parliament. The vast majority of the party's senior figures lost their
seats, including the Leader Arthur Henderson, Attlee narrowly retained
his Limehouse seat in the election, with his majority being slashed
from 7,288 to just 551. He was one of only three Labour MPs who had
experience of government to retain their seats, along with George
Lansbury and Stafford Cripps, accordingly Lansbury was elected Leader
unopposed with Attlee as his deputy.
Most of the remaining Labour MPs after 1931 were elderly trade union
officials who could not contribute much to debates, Lansbury was in
his 70s, and
Stafford Cripps another main figure of the Labour front
bench who had entered Parliament in 1931, was inexperienced. As one of
the most capable and experienced of the remaining Labour MPs, Attlee
therefore shouldered a lot of the burden of providing an opposition to
the National Government in the years 1931–35, during this time he
had to extend his knowledge of subjects which he had not studied in
any depth before, such as finance and foreign affairs in order to
provide an effective opposition to the government.
Attlee effectively served as acting leader for nine months from
December 1933, after Lansbury fractured his thigh in an accident,
which raised Attlee's public profile considerably. It was during this
period, however, that personal financial problems almost forced Attlee
to quit politics altogether. His wife had become ill, and at that time
there was no separate salary for the Leader of the Opposition. On the
verge of resigning from Parliament, he was persuaded to stay by
Stafford Cripps, a wealthy socialist, who agreed to make a donation to
party funds to pay him an additional salary until Lansbury could take
During 1932–33 Attlee flirted with, and then drew back from
radicalism, influenced by
Stafford Cripps who was then on the radical
wing of the party, he was briefly a member of the
which had been formed by former
Independent Labour Party
Independent Labour Party (ILP)
members, who opposed the ILP's disaffiliation from the main Labour
Party in 1932. At one point he agreed with the proposition put forward
by Cripps that gradual reform was inadequate and that a socialist
government would have to pass an emergency powers act, allowing it to
rule by decree to overcome any opposition by vested interests until it
was safe to restore democracy. He admired Oliver Cromwell's
strong-armed rule and use of major generals to control England. After
looking more closely at Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, and even his former
colleague Oswald Mosley, leader of the new blackshirt fascist movement
in Britain, Attlee retreated from his radicalism, and distanced
himself from the League, and argued instead that the Labour Party must
adhere to constitutional methods and stand forthright for democracy
and against totalitarianism of either the left or right. He always
supported the crown, and as Prime Minister was close to King George
Leader of the Opposition
George Lansbury, a committed pacifist, resigned as the Leader of the
Labour Party at the 1935 Party Conference on 8 October, after
delegates voted in favour of sanctions against Italy for its
aggression against Abyssinia. Lansbury had strongly opposed the
policy, and felt unable to continue leading the party. Taking
advantage of the disarray in the Labour Party, the Prime Minister
Stanley Baldwin announced on 19 October that a general election would
be held on 14 November. With no time for a leadership contest, the
party agreed that Attlee should serve as interim leader, on the
understanding that a leadership election would be held after the
general election. Attlee therefore led Labour through the 1935
election, which saw the party stage a partial comeback from its
disastrous 1931 performance, winning 38% of the vote, the highest
share Labour had won up to that point, and gaining over one hundred
Attlee stood in the subsequent leadership election, held soon after,
where he was opposed by Herbert Morrison, who had just re-entered
parliament in the recent election, and Arthur Greenwood: Morrison was
seen as the favourite by many, but was distrusted by many sections of
the party, especially the left-wing.
Arthur Greenwood meanwhile was a
popular figure in the party, however his leadership bid was severely
hampered by his alcohol problem. Attlee was able to come across as a
competent and unifying figure, particularly having already led the
party through a general election. He went on to come first in both the
first and second ballots, formally being elected Leader of the Labour
Party on 3 December 1935.
Throughout the 1920s and most of the 1930s, the Labour Party's
official policy had been to oppose rearmament, instead supporting
internationalism and collective security under the League of
Nations. At the 1934 Labour Party Conference, Attlee declared
that, "We have absolutely abandoned any idea of nationalist loyalty.
We are deliberately putting a world order before our loyalty to our
own country. We say we want to see put on the statute book something
which will make our people citizens of the world before they are
citizens of this country." During a debate on defence in Commons a
year later, Attlee said "We are told (in the White Paper) that there
is danger against which we have to guard ourselves. We do not think
you can do it by national defence. We think you can only do it by
moving forward to a new world. A world of law, the abolition of
national armaments with a world force and a world economic system. I
shall be told that that is quite impossible." Shortly after those
Adolf Hitler proclaimed that German rearmament offered no
threat to world peace. Attlee responded the next day noting that
Hitler's speech, although containing unfavourable references to the
Soviet Union, created "A chance to call a halt in the armaments
race...We do not think that our answer to Herr Hitler should be just
rearmament. We are in an age of rearmaments, but we on this side
cannot accept that position."
In April 1936, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Neville Chamberlain,
introduced a Budget which increased the amount spent on the armed
forces. Attlee made a radio broadcast in opposition to it, saying the
was the natural expression of the character of the present Government.
There was hardly any increase allowed for the services which went to
build up the life of the people, education and health. Everything was
devoted to piling up the instruments of death. The Chancellor
expressed great regret that he should have to spend so much on
armaments, but said that it was absolutely necessary and was due only
to the actions of other nations. One would think to listen to him that
the Government had no responsibility for the state of world
affairs....The Government has now resolved to enter upon an arms race,
and the people will have to pay for their mistake in believing that it
could be trusted to carry out a policy of peace.... This is a War
Budget. We can look in the future for no advance in Social
Legislation. All available resources are to be devoted to
In June 1936, the
Duff Cooper called for an
Anglo-French alliance against possible German aggression and called
for all parties to support one. Attlee condemned this: "We say that
any suggestion of an alliance of this kind—an alliance in which one
country is bound to another, right or wrong, by some overwhelming
necessity—is contrary to the spirit of the League of Nations, is
contrary to the Covenant, is contrary to Locarno is contrary to the
obligations which this country has undertaken, and is contrary to the
professed policy of this Government." At the Labour Party
conference at Edinburgh in October Attlee reiterated that "There can
be no question of our supporting the Government in its rearmament
However, with the rising threat from Nazi Germany, and the
ineffectiveness of the League of Nations, this policy eventually lost
credibility. By 1937, Labour had jettisoned its pacifist position and
came to support rearmament and oppose Neville Chamberlain's policy of
In 1938, Attlee opposed the Munich Agreement, in which Chamberlain
negotiated with Hitler to give Germany the German-speaking parts of
Czechoslovakia, the Sudetenland:
We all feel relief that war has not come this time. Every one of us
has been passing through days of anxiety; we cannot, however, feel
that peace has been established, but that we have nothing but an
armistice in a state of war. We have been unable to go in for
care-free rejoicing. We have felt that we are in the midst of a
tragedy. We have felt humiliation. This has not been a victory for
reason and humanity. It has been a victory for brute force. At every
stage of the proceedings there have been time limits laid down by the
owner and ruler of armed force. The terms have not been terms
negotiated; they have been terms laid down as ultimata. We have seen
to-day a gallant, civilised and democratic people betrayed and handed
over to a ruthless despotism. We have seen something more. We have
seen the cause of democracy, which is, in our view, the cause of
civilisation and humanity, receive a terrible defeat. ... The events
of these last few days constitute one of the greatest diplomatic
defeats that this country and France have ever sustained. There can be
no doubt that it is a tremendous victory for Herr Hitler. Without
firing a shot, by the mere display of military force, he has achieved
a dominating position in Europe which Germany failed to win after four
years of war. He has overturned the balance of power in Europe. He has
destroyed the last fortress of democracy in Eastern Europe which stood
in the way of his ambition. He has opened his way to the food, the oil
and the resources which he requires in order to consolidate his
military power, and he has successfully defeated and reduced to
impotence the forces that might have stood against the rule of
At the end of 1937, Attlee and a party of three Labour MPs visited
Spain and visited the
British Battalion of the International Brigades
fighting in the Spanish Civil War. One of the companies was named the
"Major Attlee Company" in his honour.
In 1937, Attlee wrote a book entitled The Labour Party in Perspective,
which sold fairly well, in which he set out some of his views. He
argued that there was no point in Labour compromising on its socialist
principles in the belief that this would achieve electoral success. He
'I find that the proposition often reduces itself to this – that if
the Labour Party would drop its socialism and adopt a Liberal
platform, many Liberals would be pleased to support it. I have heard
it said more than once that if Labour would only drop its policy of
nationalisation everyone would be pleased, and it would soon obtain a
majority. I am convinced it would be fatal for the Labour Party...'
He also wrote, that there was no point in:
' watering down Labour's socialist creed in order to attract new
adherents who cannot accept the full socialist faith. On the contrary,
I believe that it is only a clear and bold policy that will attract
Deputy Prime Minister
Attlee as Lord Privy Seal, visiting a munitions factory in 1941
Attlee remained as Leader of the Opposition when the Second World War
broke out in September 1939. The ensuing disastrous Norwegian Campaign
would result in a motion of no confidence in Neville Chamberlain.
Although Chamberlain survived this, the reputation of his
administration was so badly and publicly damaged that it became clear
a coalition government would be necessary. Even if Attlee had
personally been prepared to serve under Chamberlain in an emergency
coalition government, he would never have been able to carry Labour
with him. Consequently, Chamberlain tendered his resignation, and
Labour and the Conservatives entered a coalition government led by
Winston Churchill on 10 May 1940.
Attlee and Churchill quickly agreed that the
War Cabinet would consist
of three Conservatives (initially Churchill, Chamberlain and Lord
Halifax) and two Labour members (initially himself and Arthur
Greenwood) and that Labour should have slightly more than one third of
the posts in the coalition government. Attlee and Greenwood played
a vital role in supporting Churchill during a series of War Cabinet
debates over whether or not to negotiate peace terms with Hitler
Fall of France
Fall of France in May 1940, both supported Churchill and
gave him the majority he needed in the
War Cabinet to continue
Only Attlee and Churchill would remain in the
War Cabinet from the
formation of the Government of National Unity in May 1940 through to
the election in May 1945. Attlee was initially the Lord Privy Seal,
before becoming Britain's first ever Deputy Prime Minister in 1942, as
well as becoming the Dominions Secretary and the Lord President of the
Attlee himself played a generally low key but vital role in the
wartime government, working behind the scenes and in committees to
ensure the smooth operation of government. In the coalition
government, three inter-connected committees effectively ran the
country. Churchill chaired the first two, the
War Cabinet and the
Defence Committee, with Attlee deputising for him in these, and
answering for the government in Parliament when Churchill was absent.
Attlee himself instituted, and later chaired the third body, the Lord
President's Committee, which was responsible for overseeing domestic
affairs. As Churchill was most concerned with overseeing the war
effort, this arrangement suited both men. Attlee himself had largely
been responsible for creating these arrangements with Churchill's
backing, streamlining the machinery of government and abolishing many
committees. He also acted as a concilliator in the government,
smoothing over tensions which frequently arose between Labour and
Many Labour activists were baffled by the top leadership role for a
man they regarded as having little charisma;
Beatrice Webb wrote in
her diary in early 1940:
He looked and spoke like an insignificant elderly clerk, without
distinction in the voice, manner or substance of his discourse. To
realise that this little nonentity is the Parliamentary Leader of the
Labour Party... and presumably the future P.M. [Prime Minister] is
Further information: Attlee ministry
See also: History of the
United Kingdom (1945–present)
Attlee meeting King
George VI after Labour's 1945 election victory
United Kingdom general election, 1945
Following the defeat of
Nazi Germany and the end of the War in Europe
in May 1945, Attlee and Churchill favoured the coalition government
remaining in place until Japan had been defeated. However, Herbert
Morrison made it clear that the Labour Party would not be willing to
accept this, and Churchill was forced to tender his resignation as
Prime Minister and call an immediate election.
The war had set in motion profound social changes within Britain, and
had ultimately led to a widespread popular desire for social reform.
This mood was epitomised in the
Beveridge Report of 1942, by the
Liberal economist William Beveridge. The Report assumed that the
maintenance of full employment would be the aim of post-war
governments, and that this would provide the basis for the welfare
state. Immediately on its release, it sold hundreds of thousands of
copies. All major parties committed themselves to fulfilling this aim,
but most historians say that Attlee's Labour Party were seen by the
electorate as the most likely to follow it through.
Labour campaigned on the theme of "Let Us Face the Future,"
positioning themselves as the party best placed to rebuild Britain
after the war,[note 1] and were widely viewed as having run a strong
and positive campaign, while the
Conservative campaign centred
entirely around Churchill. Despite opinion polls indicating a
strong Labour lead, opinion polls were then viewed as a novelty which
had not proven their worth, and most commentators expected that
Churchill's prestige and status as a "war hero" would ensure a
Conservative victory. Before polling day, The
Manchester Guardian surmised that "the chances of Labour sweeping the
country and obtaining a clear majority ... are pretty
News of the World
News of the World predicted a working Conservative
majority, while in
Glasgow a pundit forecast the result as
Conservatives 360, Labour 220, Others 60. Churchill however made
some costly errors during the campaign. In particular, his suggestion
during one radio broadcast that a future Labour Government would
require "some form of a gestapo" to implement their policies was
widely regarded as being in very bad taste, and massively
When the results of the election were announced on 26 July, they came
as a surprise to most, including Attlee himself. Labour had won power
by a huge landslide, winning 47.7% of the vote to the Conservatives'
36%. This gave them 393 seats in the House of Commons, a working
majority of 146. This was the first time in history that the Labour
Party had won a majority in Parliament. When Attlee went to see
George VI at
Buckingham Palace to be appointed Prime Minister,
the notoriously laconic Attlee and the famously tongue-tied King stood
in silence; Attlee finally volunteered the remark, "I've won the
election." The King replied "I know. I heard it on the Six O'Clock
As Prime Minister, Attlee appointed
Hugh Dalton as Chancellor of the
Ernest Bevin as Foreign Secretary, and
Herbert Morrison as
Deputy Prime Minister, with overall responsibility for
Stafford Cripps was made President of
the Board of Trade,
Aneurin Bevan became Minister of Health, and Ellen
Wilkinson, the only woman to serve in Attlee's government, was
appointed Minister of Education. The Attlee Government proved itself
to be a radical, reforming government. From 1945 to 1948, over 200
Acts of Parliament
Acts of Parliament were passed, with eight major pieces of
legislation placed on the statute book in 1946 alone.
Francis (1995) argues there was consensus both in the Labour's
national executive committee and at party conferences on a definition
of socialism that stressed moral improvement as well as material
improvement. The Attlee government was committed to rebuilding British
society as an ethical commonwealth, using public ownership and
controls to abolish extremes of wealth and poverty. Labour's ideology
contrasted sharply with the contemporary
Conservative Party's defence
of individualism, inherited privileges, and income inequality. As
for the prime minister himself, he was not much focused on economic
policy, letting others handle the issues.
Trafford General Hospital, known as the birthplace of the NHS.
Attlee's Health Minister, Aneurin Bevan, fought hard against the
general disapproval of the medical establishment, including the
British Medical Association, by creating the National Health Service
(NHS) in 1948. This was a publicly funded healthcare system, which
offered treatment free of charge for all at the point of use.
Reflecting pent-up demand that had long existed for medical services,
the NHS treated some 8½ million dental patients and dispensed
more than 5 million pairs of spectacles during its first year of
The government set about implementing the wartime plans of Liberal
William Beveridge for the creation of a 'cradle to grave' welfare
state. It set in place an entirely new system of social security.
Among the most important pieces of legislation was the National
Insurance Act 1946, in which people in work were required to pay a
flat rate of national insurance. In return, they (and the wives of
male contributors) were eligible for a wide range of benefits,
including pensions, sickness benefit, unemployment benefit, and
funeral benefit. Various other pieces of legislation provided for
child benefit and support for people with no other source of
income. In 1949, unemployment, sickness and maternity benefits
were exempted from tax.
The New Towns Act of 1946 set up development corporations to construct
new towns, while the Town and Country Planning Act of 1947 instructed
county councils to prepare development plans and also provided
compulsory purchase powers. The Attlee Government also extended
the powers of local authorities to requisition houses and parts of
houses, and made the acquisition of land less difficult than
before. The Housing (Scotland) Act of 1949 provided grants of 75%
(87.5% in the highlands and islands) towards modernisation costs
payable by Treasury to local authorities.
In 1949, local authorities were empowered to provide people suffering
from poor health with public housing at subsidised rents.
To assist home ownership, the limit on the amount of money that people
could borrow from their local authority to purchase or build a home
was raised from £800 to £1,500 in 1945, and to £5,000 in 1949.
Under the National Assistance act of 1948, local authorities had a
duty "to provide emergency temporary accommodation for families which
become homeless through no fault of their own."
A large house-building programme was carried out with the intention of
providing millions of people with high-quality homes. A housing
bill passed in 1946 increased Treasury subsidies for the construction
of local authority housing in
England and Wales. Four out of five
houses constructed under Labour were council properties built to more
generous specifications than before the Second World War, and
subsidies kept down council rents. Altogether, these policies provided
public-sector housing with its biggest-ever boost up until that point,
while low-wage earners particularly benefited from these developments.
Although the Attlee Government failed to meet its targets, primarily
due to economic constraints, over a million new homes were built
between 1945 and 1951 (a significant achievement under the
circumstances) which ensured that decent, affordable housing was
available to many low-income families for the first time ever.
Women and children
A number of reforms were embarked upon to improve conditions for women
and children. In 1946, universal family allowances were introduced to
provide financial support to households for raising children.
These benefits had been legislated for the previous year by
Churchill's Family Allowances Act 1945, and was the first measure
pushed through parliament by Attlee's government. Conservatives
would later criticise Labour for having been "too hasty" in
introducing family allowances.
A Married Women (Restraint Upon Anticipation) Act was passed in 1949
"to equalise, to render inoperative any restrictions upon anticipation
or alienation attached to the enjoyment of property by a woman," while
the Married Women (Maintenance) Act of 1949 was enacted with the
intention of improving the adequacy and duration of financial benefits
for married women.
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 1950 amended an Act of 1885 to
bring prostitutes within the law and safeguard them from abduction and
abuse. The Criminal Justice Act of 1948 restricted imprisonment
for juveniles and brought improvements to the probation and remand
centres systems, while the passage of the Justices of the Peace Act of
1949 led to extensive reforms of magistrates' courts. The Attlee
Government also abolished the marriage bar in the Civil Service,
thereby enabling married women to work in that institution.
In 1946, the government set up a National Institute of Houseworkers as
a means of providing a social democratic variety of domestic
By late 1946, agreed standards of training were established, which was
followed by the opening of a training headquarters and the opening of
an additional nine (9) training centres in Wales, Scotland, and then
throughout Great Britain. The
National Health Service
National Health Service Act of 1946
indicated that domestic help should be provided for households where
that help is required "owing to the presence of any person who is ill,
lying-in, an expectant mother, mentally defective, aged or a child not
over compulsory school age." 'Home help' therefore included the
provision of home-helps for nursing and expectant mothers and for
mothers with children under the age of five, and by 1952 some 20,000
women were engaged in this service.
Planning and development
Development rights were nationalised while the government attempted to
take all development profits for the State. Strong planning
authorities were set up to control land use, and issued manuals of
guidance which stressed the importance of safeguarding agricultural
land. A chain of regional offices was set up within its planning
ministry to provide a strong lead in regional development
Comprehensive Development Areas (CDAs), a designation under the Town
and Country Planning Act of 1947, allowed local authorities to acquire
property in the designated areas using powers of compulsory purchase
in order to re-plan and develop urban areas suffering from urban
blight or war damage.
Various measures were carried out to improve conditions in the
workplace. Entitlement to sick leave was greatly extended, and sick
pay schemes were introduced for local authority administrative,
professional and technical workers in 1946 and for various categories
of manual workers in 1948. Worker's compensation was also
The Fair Wages Resolution of 1946 required any contractor working on a
public project to at least match the pay rates and other employment
conditions set in the appropriate collective agreement. In
1946, purchase tax was removed completely from kitchen fittings and
crockery, while the rate was reduced on various gardening items.
Fire Services Act 1947 introduced a new pension scheme for
fire-fighters, while the
Electricity Act 1947
Electricity Act 1947 introduced better
retirement benefits for workers in that industry. A Workers'
Compensation (Supplementation) Act was passed in 1948 that introduced
benefits for workers with certain asbestos-related diseases which had
occurred before 1948. The Merchant Shipping Act of 1948 and the
Merchant Shipping (Safety Convention) Act of 1949 were passed to
improve conditions for seamen. The Shops Act of 1950 consolidated
previous legislation which provided that no one could be employed in a
shop for more than six hours without having a break for at least 20
minutes. The legislation also required a lunch break of at least 45
minutes for anyone for worked between 11:30 am and 2:30 pm
and a half-hour tea break for anyone working between 4 pm and
7 pm. The government also strengthened a Fair Wages
Resolution, with a clause that required all employers getting
government contracts to recognise the rights of their workers to join
The Trades Disputes Act 1927 was repealed, and a Dock Labour Scheme
was introduced in 1947 to put an end to the casual system of hiring
labour in the docks. This scheme gave registered dockers the
legal right to minimum work and decent conditions. Through the
National Dock Labour Board (on which trade unions and employers had
equal representation) the unions acquired control over recruitment and
dismissal. Registered dockers laid off by employers within the Scheme
had the right either to be taken on by another, or to generous
compensation. All dockers were registered under the Dock Labour
Scheme, giving them a legal right to minimum work, holidays and sick
Wages for members of the police force were significantly
increased. The introduction of a Miner's Charter in 1946
instituted a five-day work week for miners and a standardised day wage
structure, and in 1948 a Colliery Workers Supplementary Scheme
was approved, providing supplementary allowances to disabled
coal-workers and their dependants. In 1948, a pension scheme
was set up to provide pension benefits for employees of the new NHS,
as well as their dependents. Under the Coal Industry
Nationalisation (Superannuation) Regulations of 1950, a pension scheme
for mineworkers was established. Improvements were also made in
farmworkers' wages, and the Agricultural Wages Board in 1948 not
only safeguarded wage levels, but also ensured that workers were
provided with accommodation.
A number of regulations aimed at safeguarding the health and safety of
people at work were also introduced during Attlee's time in office.
Regulations issued in February 1946 applied to factories involved with
"manufacturing briquettes or blocks of fuel consisting of coal, coal
dust, coke or slurry with pitch as a binding substance," and concerned
"dust and ventilation, washing facilities and clothing accommodation,
medical supervision and examination, skin and eye protection and
Attlee's government also carried out their manifesto commitment for
nationalisation of basic industries and public utilities. The Bank of
England and civil aviation were nationalised in 1946. Coal mining, the
railways, road haulage, canals and Cable and Wireless were
nationalised in 1947, electricity and gas followed in 1948. The steel
industry was nationalised in 1951. By 1951 about 20% of the British
economy had been taken into public ownership.
Nationalisation failed to provide workers with a greater say in the
running of the industries in which they worked. It did, however, bring
about significant material gains for workers in the form of higher
wages, reduced working hours, and improvements in working
conditions, especially in regards to safety. As historian Eric
Shaw noted of the years following nationalisation, the electricity and
gas supply companies became "impressive models of public enterprise"
in terms of efficiency, and the
National Coal Board
National Coal Board was not only
profitable, but working conditions for miners had significantly
improved as well.
Within a few years of nationalisation, a number of progressive
measures had been carried out which did much to improve conditions in
the mines, including better pay, a five-day working week, a national
safety scheme (with proper standards at all the collieries), a ban on
boys under the age of 16 going underground, the introduction of
training for newcomers before going down to the coalface, and the
making of pithead baths into a standard facility.
The newly established
National Coal Board
National Coal Board offered sick pay and holiday
pay to miners. As noted by Martin Francis:
Union leaders saw nationalisation as a means to pursue a more
advantageous position within a framework of continued conflict, rather
than as an opportunity to replace the old adversarial form of
industrial relations. Moreover, most workers in nationalised
industries exhibited an essentially instrumentalist attitude,
favouring public ownership because it secured job security and
improved wages rather than because it promised the creation of a new
set of socialists relationships in the workplace.
The Attlee Government placed strong emphasis on improving the quality
of life in rural areas, benefiting both farmers and other consumers.
Security of tenure for farmers was introduced, while consumers were
protected by food subsidies and the redistributive effects of
deficiency payments. Between 1945–51, the quality of rural life was
improved by improvements in gas, electricity, and water services, as
well as in leisure and public amenities. In addition, the 1947
Transport Act improved provision of rural bus services, while the
Agriculture Act 1947
Agriculture Act 1947 established a more generous subsidy system for
farmers. Legislation was also passed in 1947 and 1948 which
established a permanent Agricultural Wages Board to fix minimum wages
for agricultural workers.
Attlee's government made it possible for farm workers to borrow up to
90% of the cost of building their own houses, and received a subsidy
of £15 a year for 40 years towards that cost. Grants were also
made to meet up to half the cost of supplying water to farm buildings
and fields, the government met half the cost of bracken eradication
and lime spreading, and grants were paid for bringing hill farming
land into use that had previously been considered unfit for farming
In 1946, the National Agricultural Advisory Service was set up to
supply agricultural advice and information. The Hill Farming Act
of 1946 introduced for upland areas a system of grants for buildings,
land improvement, and infrastructural improvements such as roads and
electrification. The Act also continued a system of headage payments
for hill sheep and cattle that had been introduced during the war. The
Agricultural Holdings Act of 1948 enabled (in effect) tenant farmers
to have lifelong tenancies and made provision for compensation in the
event of cessations of tenancies. In addition, the Livestock
Rearing Act of March 1951 extended the provisions of the 1946
Hill Farming Act to the upland store cattle and sheep sector.
At a time of world food shortages, it was vital that farmers produced
the maximum possible quantities. The government encouraged farmers via
subsidies for modernisation, while the National Agricultural Advisory
Service provided expertise and price guarantees. As a result of the
Attlee Government's initiatives in agriculture, there was a 20%
increase in output between 1947 and 1952, while Britain adopted one of
the most mechanised and efficient farming industries in the
The Attlee Government ensured provisions of the Education Act 1944
were fully implemented, with free secondary education becoming a right
for the first time. Fees in state grammar schools were eliminated,
while new, modern secondary schools were constructed.
The school leaving age was raised to 15 in 1947, an accomplishment
helped brought into fruition by initiatives such as the H.O.R.S.A.
("Huts Operation for Raising the School-leaving Age") scheme and the
S.F.O.R.S.A. (furniture) scheme. University scholarships were
introduced to ensure that no one who was qualified “should be
deprived of a university education for financial reasons,”
while a large school building programme was organised. A rapid
increase in the number of trained teachers took place, and the number
of new school places was increased.
Increased Treasury funds were made available for education,
particularly for upgrading school buildings suffering from years of
neglect and war damage. Prefabricated classrooms were built and
928 new primary schools were constructed between 1945–50. The
provision of free school meals was expanded, and opportunities for
university entrants were increased. State scholarships to
universities were increased, and the government adopted a policy
of supplementing university scholarships awards to a level sufficient
to cover fees plus maintenance.
Many thousands of ex-servicemen were assisted to go through college
who could never have contemplated it before the war. Free milk
was also made available to all schoolchildren for the first time.
In addition, spending on technical education rose, and the number of
nursery schools was increased. Salaries for teachers were also
improved, and funds were allocated towards improving existing
In 1947, the Arts Council of Great Britain was set up to encourage the
A Ministry of Education was established, and free County Colleges were
set up for the compulsory part-time instruction of teenagers between
the ages of 15 and 18 who were not in full-time education. An
Emergency Training Scheme was also introduced which turned out an
extra 25,000 teachers in 1945–51. In 1947, Regional Advisory
Councils were set up to bring together industry and education to find
out the needs of young workers "and advise on the provision required,
and to secure reasonable economy of provision." That same year,
thirteen Area Training Organisations were set up in
England and one in
Wales to coordinate teacher training.
Attlee's government, however, failed to introduce the comprehensive
education for which many socialists had hoped (as a means of making
the educational system based more on merit and less on hereditary
privilege.) This reform was eventually carried out by Harold Wilson's
government. During its time in office, the Attlee Government increased
spending on education by over 50%, from £6.5 billion to
The most significant problem facing Attlee and his ministers remained
the economy, as the war effort had left Britain nearly bankrupt. The
war had cost Britain about a quarter of her national wealth. Overseas
investments had been used up to pay for the war. The transition to a
peacetime economy, and the maintaining of strategic military
commitments abroad led to continuous and severe problems with the
balance of trade. This resulted in strict rationing of food and other
essential goods continuing in the post war period to force a reduction
in consumption in an effort to limit imports, boost exports, and
stabilise the Pound Sterling so that Britain could trade its way out
of its financial state.
The abrupt end of the American
Lend-Lease program in August 1945
almost caused a crisis. Some relief was provided by the Anglo-American
loan, negotiated in December 1945. The conditions attached to the loan
included making the pound fully convertible to the US$. When this was
introduced in July 1947, it led to a currency crisis and
convertibility had to be suspended after just five weeks. The UK
benefited from the American
Marshall Aid program in 1948, and the
economic situation improved significantly. Another balance of payments
crisis in 1949 forced Chancellor of the Exchequer, Stafford Cripps,
into devaluation of the pound.
Despite these problems, one of the main achievements of Attlee's
government was the maintenance of near full employment. The government
maintained most of the wartime controls over the economy, including
control over the allocation of materials and manpower, and
unemployment rarely rose above 500,000, or 3% of the total
workforce. Labour shortages proved a more frequent problem. The
inflation rate was also kept low during his term. The rate of
unemployment rarely rose above 2% during Attlee's time in office,
whilst there was no hard-core of long-term unemployed. Both production
and productivity rose as a result of new equipment, while the average
working week was shortened.
The government was less successful in housing, which was the
responsibility of Aneurin Bevan. The government had a target to build
400,000 new houses a year to replace those which had been destroyed in
the war, but shortages of materials and manpower meant that less than
half this number were built. Nevertheless, millions of people were
rehoused as a result of the Attlee government's housing policies.
Between August 1945 and December 1951, 1,016,349 new homes were
completed in England, Scotland, and Wales.
When the Attlee Government was voted out of office in 1951, the
economy had been improved compared to 1945. The period from 1946 to
1951 saw continuous full employment and steadily rising living
standards, which increased by about 10% each year. During that same
period, the economy grew by 3% a year, and by 1951 the UK had "the
best economic performance in Europe, while output per person was
increasing faster than in the United States." Careful planning
after 1945 also ensured that demobilisation was carried out without
having a negative impact upon economic recovery, and that unemployment
stayed at very low levels. In addition, the number of motor cars
on the roads rose from 3 million to 5 million from
1945–51, and seaside holidays were taken by far more people than
ever before. A Monopolies and Restrictive Practices (Inquiry and
Control) Act was passed in 1948, which allowed for investigations of
restrictive practices and monopolies.
1947 proved a particularly difficult year for the government; an
exceptionally cold winter that year caused coal mines to freeze and
cease production, creating widespread power cuts and food shortages.
The Minister of Fuel and Power,
Emanuel Shinwell was widely blamed for
failing to ensure adequate coal stocks, and soon resigned from his
post. The Conservatives capitalised on the crisis with the slogan
'Starve with Strachey and shiver with Shinwell' (referring to the
Minister of Food John Strachey).
The crisis led to an unsuccessful plot by
Hugh Dalton to replace
Attlee as Prime Minister with Ernest Bevin. Later that year Stafford
Cripps tried to persuade Attlee to stand aside for Bevin. These plots
petered out after Bevin refused to cooperate. Later that year, Hugh
Dalton resigned as Chancellor after inadvertently leaking details of
the budget to a journalist. He was replaced by Cripps.
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman and
Joseph Stalin at the 1945 Potsdam
Europe and the Cold War
In foreign affairs, the Attlee Government was concerned with four main
issues; post-war Europe, the onset of the Cold War, the establishment
of the United Nations, and decolonisation. The first two were closely
related, and Attlee was assisted by Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin.
Attlee also attended the later stages of the Potsdam Conference, where
he negotiated with President
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman and Joseph Stalin.
In the immediate aftermath of the war, the Government faced the
challenge of managing relations with Britain's former war-time ally,
Stalin and the Soviet Union.
Ernest Bevin was a passionate
anti-communist, based largely on his experience of fighting communist
influence in the trade union movement. Bevin's initial approach to the
USSR as Foreign Secretary was "wary and suspicious, but not
automatically hostile." Attlee himself sought warm relations with
Stalin. He put his trust in the United Nations, rejected notions that
Soviet Union was bent on world conquest, and warned that treating
Moscow as an enemy would turn it into one. This put Attlee at sword's
point with his foreign minister, the Foreign Office, and the military
who all saw the Soviets as a growing threat to Britain's role in the
Middle East. Suddenly in January 1947, Attlee reversed his position
and agreed with Bevin on a hard-line anti-Soviet policy.
In an early "good-will" gesture that was later heavily criticised, the
Attlee Government allowed the Soviets access, under the terms of a
1946 UK-USSR Trade Agreement, to several
Rolls-Royce Nene jet engines.
The Soviets, who at the time were well behind the West in jet
technology, reverse-engineered the Nene and installed their own
version in the MiG-15 interceptor, used to good effect against US-UK
forces in the subsequent Korean War, as well as in several later MiG
After Stalin took political control of most of Eastern Europe, and
began to subvert other governments in the Balkans, Attlee's and
Bevin's worst fears of Soviet intentions were realised. The Attlee
Government then became instrumental in the creation of the successful
NATO defence alliance to protect Western Europe against any Soviet
aggression. In a crucial contribution to the economic
stability of post-war Europe, Attlee's Cabinet was instrumental in
promoting the American
Marshall Plan for the economic recovery of
Europe. He called it, one of the “most bold, enlightened and
good-natured acts in the history of nations." 
A group of Labour MPs, organised under the banner of "Keep Left" urged
the government to steer a middle way between the two emerging
superpowers, and advocated the creation of a "third force" of European
powers to stand between the US and USSR. However, deteriorating
relations between Britain and the USSR, as well as Britain's economic
reliance on America following the Marshall Plan, steered policy
towards supporting the US. In January 1947, fear of both Soviet
and American nuclear intentions led to a secret meeting of the
Cabinet, where the decision was made to press ahead with the
development of Britain's independent nuclear deterrent, an issue which
later caused a split in the Labour Party. Britain's first successful
nuclear test, however, did not occur until 1952, one year after Attlee
had left office.
The London dock strike of July 1949, led by Communists, was suppressed
when the Attlee government sent in 13,000 Army troops and passed
special legislation to promptly end the strike. His response reveals
Attlee's growing concern that Soviet expansionism, supported by the
British Communist Party, was a genuine threat to national security,
and that the docks were highly vulnerable to sabotage ordered by
Moscow. He noted that the strike was caused not by local grievances,
but to help communist unions who were on strike in Canada. Attlee
agreed with MI5 that he faced "a very present menace."
Ernest Bevin (left) with Attlee in 1945.
Decolonisation was never a major election issue but Attlee gave the
matter a great deal of attention and was the chief leader in planning
and achieving the process of decolonisation of the British Empire,
starting in Asia.
Attlee orchestrated the granting of independence to India and Pakistan
in 1947. Attlee in 1928–34 had been a member of the Indian Statutory
Commission, called the Simon Commission. He became the Labour Party
expert on India and by 1934 was committed to granting India the same
independent dominion status that
Australia recently were
given. He faced strong resistance from the die-hard Conservative
imperialists, led by Churchill, who opposed both independence and
efforts led by Prime Minister
Stanley Baldwin to set up a system of
limited local control by Indians themselves. Attlee and the
Labour leadership were sympathetic to the Congress movement led by
Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. During the Second World War
Attlee was in charge of Indian affairs. He set up the Cripps Mission
in 1942, which tried and failed to bring the factions together. When
the Congress called for passive resistance in the "Quit India"
movement of 1942–45, it was Attlee who ordered the arrest and
internment for the duration of tens of thousands of Congress leaders
and crushed the revolt.
Labour's election Manifesto in 1945 called for "the advancement of
India to responsible self-government," but did not mention
independence. In 1942 the
British Raj tried to enlist all major
political factors parties in support of the war effort. Congress, led
by Nehru and Gandhi, demanded immediate independence and full control
by Congress of all of India. That demand was rejected by the British,
and Congress opposed the war effort with its "
Quit India campaign."
The Raj immediately responded in 1942 by imprisoning the major
national, regional and local Congress leaders for the duration. Attlee
did not object. By contrast, the Muslim League led by Muhammad
Ali Jinnah, and also the Sikh community, strongly supported the war
effort. They greatly enlarged their membership and won favour from
London for their decision. Attlee retained a fondness for Congress and
until 1946, accepted their thesis that they were a non-religious party
that accepted Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, and everyone else.
The Muslim league insisted that it was the only true representative of
all of the Muslims of India, and by 1946 Attlee had come to agree with
them. With violence escalating in India after the war, but with
British financial power at a low ebb, large-scale military involvement
was impossible. Viceroy Wavell said he needed a further seven army
divisions to prevent communal violence if independence negotiations
failed. No divisions were available; independence was the only
option. Given the demands of the Muslim league, independence
implied a partition that set off heavily Muslim Pakistan from the main
portion of India.
The Labour government gave independence to India and Pakistan in an
unexpectedly quick move in 1947. Historian Andrew Roberts says the
independence of India was a "national humiliation" but it was
necessitated by urgent financial, administrative, strategic and
political needs. Churchill in 1940–45 had tightened the hold on
India and imprisoned the Congress leadership, with Attlee's approval.
Labour had looked forward to making it a fully independent dominion
Canada or Australia. Many of the Congress leaders in the India
had studied in England, and were highly regarded as fellow idealistic
socialists by Labour leaders. Attlee was the Labour expert on India
and took special charge of decolonisation. Attlee found that
Churchill's viceroy, Field Marshal Wavell, was too imperialistic, too
keen on military solutions (he wanted seven more Army divisions) and
too neglectful of Indian political alignments. The new Viceroy
was Lord Mountbatten, the dashing war hero and a cousin of the
King. The boundary between the newly created states of Pakistan
and India involved the widespread resettlement of millions of Muslims
and Hindus (and many Sikhs). Extreme violence ensued when Punjab and
Bengal provinces were split. Historian Yasmin Khan estimates that
between a half-million and a million men, women and children were
killed. Gandhi himself was assassinated by a Hindu activist
in January 1948.
The final result was two nations consisting of a Hindu-majority India
and a Muslim-majority Pakistan (which incorporated East Pakistan, now
Bangladesh). Both joined the Commonwealth.
Attlee also sponsored the peaceful transition to independence in 1948
of Burma (Myanmar) and
Ceylon (Sri Lanka).
One of the most urgent problems concerned the future of the Palestine
Mandate. It had become too troublesome and much too expensive to
handle. British policies there were perceived by the
and the Truman Administration as pro-Arab and anti-Jewish. In the face
of an armed revolt of Jewish militant groups and increasing violence
of the local Arab population, Britain had found itself unable to
control events. This was a very unpopular commitment, and the
evacuation of British troops and subsequent handing over of the issue
to the United Nations was widely supported by the British public.
The government's policies with regard to the other colonies,
particularly those in Africa, focused on keeping them as strategic
Cold War assets while modernising their economies. The Labour Party
had long attracted aspiring leaders from Africa and had developed
elaborate plans before the war. Implementing them overnight with an
empty treasury proved too challenging. A major military base was
built in Kenya, and the African colonies came under an unprecedented
degree of direct control from London. Development schemes were
implemented to help solve Britain's post-war balance of payments
crisis and raise African living standards. This "new colonialism"
worked slowly and had failures such as the Tanganyika groundnut
The 1950 election gave Labour a massively reduced majority of five
seats compared to the triple-digit majority of 1945. Although
re-elected, the result was seen by Attlee as very disappointing, and
was widely attributed to the effects of post-war austerity denting
Labour's appeal to middle class voters. With such a small
majority leaving him dependent on a small number of MPs to govern,
Attlee's second term was much tamer than his first. Some major reforms
were nevertheless passed, particularly regarding industry in urban
areas and regulations to limit air and water pollution.
By 1951, the Attlee Government was exhausted, with several of its most
senior ministers ailing or ageing, and with a lack of new ideas.
Attlee's record for settling internal differences in the Labour Party
fell in April 1951, when there was a damaging split over an austerity
Budget brought in by the Chancellor, Hugh Gaitskell, to pay for the
cost of Britain's participation in the Korean War. Aneurin Bevan
resigned to protest against the new charges for "teeth and spectacles"
National Health Service
National Health Service introduced by that Budget, and was
joined in this action by several senior ministers, including the
future Prime Minister Harold Wilson, then the President of the Board
of Trade. Thus escalated a battle between the left and right wings of
the Party that continues today.
Finding it increasingly impossible to govern, Attlee's only chance was
to call a snap election in October 1951, in the hope of achieving a
more workable majority and to regain authority. The gamble
failed: Labour narrowly lost to the
Conservative Party, despite
winning considerably more votes (achieving the largest Labour vote in
electoral history). Attlee tendered his resignation as Prime Minister
the following day, after six years and three months in office.
Return to opposition
Following the defeat in 1951, Attlee continued to lead the party as
Leader of the Opposition. His last four years as leader were, however,
widely seen as one of the Labour Party's weaker periods.
The period was dominated by infighting between the Labour Party's
right wing, led by Hugh Gaitskell, and its left, led by Aneurin Bevan.
Many Labour MPs felt that Attlee should have retired after the 1951
election and allowed a younger man to lead the party. Bevan openly
called for him to stand down in the summer of 1954. One of his
main reasons for staying on as leader was to frustrate the leadership
ambitions of Herbert Morrison, whom Attlee disliked for both political
and personal reasons. At one time, Attlee had favoured Aneurin
Bevan to succeed him as leader, but this became problematic after
Bevan almost irrevocably split the party.
In an interview with the
News Chronicle columnist
Percy Cudlipp in
mid-September 1955, Attlee made clear his own thinking together with
his preference for the leadership succession, stating: "Labour has
nothing to gain by dwelling in the past. Nor do I think we can impress
the nation by adopting a futile left-wingism. I regard myself as Left
of Centre which is where a Party Leader ought to be. It is no use
asking, 'What would
Keir Hardie have done?' We must have at the top
men brought up in the present age, not, as I was, in the Victorian
Attlee, now aged 72, contested the 1955 general election against
Anthony Eden, which saw Labour lose 18 seats, and the Conservatives
increase their majority. He retired as Leader of the Labour Party on 7
December 1955, having led the party for twenty years, and on 14
Hugh Gaitskell was elected as his replacement.
Coat of arms
Coat of arms of the Earls Attlee
He subsequently retired from the House of Commons and was elevated to
the peerage to take his seat in the
House of Lords
House of Lords as
Earl Attlee and
Viscount Prestwood on 16 December 1955. He believed Eden had been
forced into taking a strong stand on the
Suez Crisis by his
backbenchers. In 1958, he was, along with numerous notables; to
establish the Homosexual Law Reform Society. The society campaigned
for the decriminalisation of homosexual acts in private by consenting
adults, a reform which was voted through Parliament nine years
In 1962, he spoke twice in the
House of Lords
House of Lords against the British
government's application for the UK to join the European Economic
Community ("Common Market"). In his second speech delivered in
November, Attlee claimed that Britain had a separate parliamentary
tradition from the Continental countries that composed the EEC. He
also claimed that if Britain was a member, EEC rules would prevent the
British government from planning the economy and that Britain's
traditional policy had been outward looking rather than
He attended Winston Churchill's funeral in January 1965. He was
elderly and frail by that time, and had to remain seated in the
freezing cold as the coffin was carried, having tired himself out by
standing at the rehearsal the previous day. He lived to see the Labour
Party return to power under
Harold Wilson in 1964, but also to see his
old constituency of
Walthamstow West fall to the Conservatives in a
by-election in September 1967.
Attlee died peacefully in his sleep of pneumonia, at the age of 84 at
Westminster Hospital on 8 October 1967. 2,000 people attended his
funeral in November, including the then-Prime Minister Harold Wilson
and the Duke of Kent, representing the Queen. He was cremated and his
ashes were buried at Westminster Abbey.
Upon his death, the title passed to his son Martin Richard Attlee, 2nd
Earl Attlee (1927–91). It is now held by Clement Attlee's grandson
John Richard Attlee, 3rd Earl Attlee. The third earl (a member of the
Conservative Party) retained his seat in the Lords as one of the
hereditary peers to remain under an amendment to Labour's 1999 House
of Lords Act.
Attlee's estate was sworn for probate purposes at a value of
£7,295, a relatively modest sum for so prominent a figure, and
only a fraction of the £75,394 in his father's estate when he died in
The quote about Attlee, "A modest man, but then he has so much to be
modest about," is commonly ascribed to Churchill—though Churchill
denied saying it, and respected Attlee's service in the War
Cabinet. Attlee's modesty and quiet manner hid a great deal that
has only come to light with historical reappraisal. In terms of the
machinery of government, he was one of the most businesslike and
effective of all the UK Prime Ministers.
His leadership style of consensual government, acting as a chairman
rather than a president, won him much praise from historians and
politicians alike. Christopher Soames, the British Ambassador to
France during the
Conservative government of
Edward Heath and Cabinet
Minister under Margaret Thatcher, remarked that "Mrs. Thatcher was not
really running a team. Every time you have a Prime Minister who wants
to make all the decisions, it mainly leads to bad results. Attlee
didn't. That's why he was so damn good."
Thatcher herself wrote in her 1995 memoirs, which charted her
Grantham to her victory at the 1979 general election,
that she admired Attlee, writing: "Of Clement Attlee, however, I was
an admirer. He was a serious man and a patriot. Quite contrary to the
general tendency of politicians in the 1990s, he was all substance and
Attlee's administration presided over the successful transition from a
wartime economy to peacetime, tackling problems of demobilisation,
shortages of foreign currency, and adverse deficits in trade balances
and government expenditure. Further domestic policies that he brought
about included the creation of the
National Health Service
National Health Service and the
post-war Welfare State, which became key to the reconstruction of
post-war Britain. Attlee and his ministers did much to transform the
UK into a more prosperous and egalitarian society during their time in
office with reductions in poverty and a rise in the general economic
security of the population.
Statue of Attlee in its former position outside Limehouse Library
In foreign affairs, he did much to assist with the post-war economic
recovery of Europe. He proved a loyal ally of the
United States at the
onset of the Cold War. Due to his style of leadership, it was not he,
Ernest Bevin who masterminded foreign policy. It was Attlee's
government that decided Britain should have an independent nuclear
weapons programme, and work on it began in 1947.
Bevin, Attlee's Foreign Secretary, famously stated that "We've got to
have it and it's got to have a bloody Union Jack on it." The first
operational British A Bomb was not detonated until October 1952, about
one year after Attlee had left office. Independent British atomic
research was prompted partly by the US McMahon Act, which nullified
wartime expectations of postwar US-UK collaboration in nuclear
research, and prohibited Americans from communicating nuclear
technology even to allied countries. British atomic bomb research was
kept secret even from some members of Attlee's own cabinet, whose
loyalty or discretion seemed uncertain.
Although a socialist, Attlee still believed in the
British Empire of
his youth. He thought of it as an institution that was a power for
good in the world. Nevertheless, he saw that a large part of it needed
to be self-governing. Using the Dominions of Canada, Australia, and
New Zealand as a model, he continued the transformation of the Empire
into the modern-day British Commonwealth.
His greatest achievement, surpassing many of these, was perhaps; the
establishment of a political and economic consensus about the
governance of Britain that all three major parties subscribed to for
three decades, fixing the arena of political discourse until the
late-1970s. In 2004, he was voted the most successful British
Prime Minister of the 20th Century by a poll of 139 academics
organised by Ipsos MORI.
Several years after his death, a street on a new housing development
in Tividale, West Midlands, was named Attlee Close in his memory. The
Birks Holt social housing estate in
Maltby, South Yorkshire
Maltby, South Yorkshire has its
streets named after Labour politicians, including Attlee, Sir Stafford
Hugh Gaitskell and George Lansbury.
A blue plaque unveiled in 1979 commemorates Attlee at 17 Monkhams
Avenue, in Woodford Green in the London borough of Redbridge.
Attlee was elected a
Fellow of the Royal Society
Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1947.
Attlee was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of Queen Mary College on 15
Statue of Clement Attlee
The statue of
Clement Attlee in its new position at Queen Mary
University of London.
On 30 November 1988, a bronze statue of
Clement Attlee was unveiled by
Harold Wilson (the next Labour Prime Minister after Attlee) outside
Limehouse Library in Attlee's former constituency. By then Wilson
was the last surviving member of Attlee's cabinet, and the
unveiling of the statue would be one of the last public appearances by
Wilson, who was by that point, in the early stages of Alzheimer's
Disease and died at the age of 79 in May 1995.
Limehouse Library was closed in 2003, after which the statue was
vandalised. The council surrounded it with protective hoarding for
four years, before eventually removing it for repair and recasting in
2009. In April 2011 the restored statue was unveiled by Peter
Mandleson in its new position less than a mile away at the Queen Mary
University of London's
Mile End campus.
Styles of address
1883–1922: Mr Clement Attlee
Clement Attlee MP
The Right Honourable
Clement Attlee MP
The Right Honourable
Clement Attlee CH MP
The Right Honourable
Clement Attlee CH FRS MP
The Right Honourable
Clement Attlee OM CH FRS MP
The Right Honourable The
Earl Attlee OM CH PC FRS
The Right Honourable The
Earl Attlee KG OM CH PC FRS
Coat of arms
Coat of arms of Clement Attlee
Coronet of an Earl
On a Mount Vert two Lions addorsed Or
Azure, on a Chevron Or between three Hearts of the Last winged Argent
as many Lions rampant Sable
On either side a Welsh Terrier sejant Proper
Labor vincit omnia (Labour conquers all)
Although one of his brothers became a clergyman and one of his sisters
a missionary, Attlee himself is usually regarded as an agnostic. In an
interview he described himself as "incapable of religious feeling,"
saying that he believed in "the ethics of Christianity" but not "the
mumbo-jumbo." When asked whether he was an agnostic, Attlee replied "I
Further information: Cultural depictions of British prime ministers
§ Clement Attlee
Major legislation enacted during the Attlee Government
Housing (Financial and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1946
Nationalisation Act 1946
Furnished Houses (Rent Control) Act 1946
National Health Service
National Health Service Act 1946
National Insurance Act
National Insurance Act 1946
National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act 1946
New Towns Act 1946
Trade Disputes and Trade Unions Act 1946
Hill Farming Act 1946
Agriculture Act 1947
Pensions (Increase) Act 1947
Electricity Act 1947
Town and Country Planning Act 1947
Transport Act 1947
National Assistance Act 1948
Children Act 1948
Factories Act 1948
Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1948
Agricultural Holdings Act 1948
British Nationality Act 1948
Employment and Training Act 1948
Nurseries and Child-Minders Regulation Act 1948
Law Reform (Personal Injuries) Act 1948
Local Government Act 1948
Representation of the People Act 1948
Housing Act 1949
Superannuation Act 1949
House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Act 1949
Landlord and Tenant (Rent Control) Act 1949
Lands Tribunal Act 1949
Legal Aid and Advice Act 1949
Adoption of Children Act 1949
Marriage Act 1949
National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949
Parliament Act 1949
Representation of the People Act 1949
Distribution of Industry Act 1950
Coal-Mining (Subsidence) Act 1950
Allotments Act 1950
Workmen's Compensation (Supplementation) Act 1951
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(Yale UP, 2005) pp 6, 83–103, 211.
^ Peter Lyon (2008). Conflict Between India and Pakistan: An
Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 19.
^ "Gandhi Is Killed By A Hindu; India Shaken, World Mourns; 15 Die In
Rioting In Bombay Three Shots Fired" New York Times 30 January 1948
^ Paul H. Kratoska (2001). South East Asia, Colonial History: Peaceful
transitions to independence (1945–1963). Taylor & Francis.
^ Ellen Jenny Ravndal, "Exit Britain: British Withdrawal From the
Palestine Mandate in the Early Cold War, 1947–1948." Diplomacy &
Statecraft 21#3 (2010): 416–433.
^ Kelemen Paul (2007). "Planning for Africa: The British Labour
Party's Colonial Development Policy, 1920–1964". Journal of Agrarian
Change. 7 (1): 76–98. doi:10.1111/j.1471-0366.2007.00140.x.
^ Hyam Ronald (1988). "Africa and the Labour government, 1945–1951".
Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History. 16 (3): 148–172.
^ "1950: Labour majority slashed". BBC News. 5 April 2005.
^ Morgan 1984, pp. 409–461.
^ H.G. Nicholas, The British general election of 1950 (1999).
^ Morgan 1984, p. 460.
^ Robert Leach; et al. (2011). British Politics. Palgrave Macmillan.
^ Robert Pearce, "The 1950 and 1951 General Elections in Britain:
Robert Pearce Asks Why Labour's Period in Office under Clement Attlee
Came to an End" History Review (March 2008) v 60 online
^ Robert Crowcroft and Kevin Theakston. "The Fall of the Attlee
Government, 1951." in Timothy Heppell and Kevin Theakston, eds. How
Labour Governments Fall (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). pp 61–82.
^ Williams, Charles.
Harold Macmillan (2009), p. 221
^ a b Beckett 1998.
^ Leading The Left.
^ John Bew (2017), Clement Attlee: The Man Who Made Modern Britain,
New York, NY: Oxford University Press, p. 532
^ Nicklaus Thomas-Symonds (2010), Attlee: A Life in Politics, London:
I B Tauris, p. 260
^ Bew, John Citizen Clem: A Biography of Attlee (2016) p. 538
^ Brian Harrison (2009). Seeking a Role: The United Kingdom
1951—1970. p. 166.
^ Speech in the
House of Lords
House of Lords on the British application to join the
Common Market (8 November 1962).
^ Beckett 2015, p.467
^ "Prime ministers' funerals from Pitt to Heath". BBC. Retrieved 4
^ "Clement Attlee". Find a Grave. Retrieved 13 February 2017.
^ "Earl Attlee's Remains Interred Aka Service Of Memorial And Burial
Earl Attlee (1967)". Youtube. British Pathe. Retrieved 18 July
^ "Attlee the rt hon Clement Richard of 1 Kings Bench Walk Temple
London EC4 died 8 October 1967 Probate London 4 January £7295" in
Probate Index for 1968 at probatesearch.service.gov.uk, accessed 7
^ "Attlee Henry of 10 Billiter-square London and Westcott
Surrey died 19 November 1908" in Probate Index
for 1908 at probatesearch.service.gov.uk, accessed 7 August 2016
^ Arnstein, Walter L. Britain Yesterday and Today: 1830 to the
Present, Chapter 19, p. 363
^ Hennessy, Peter. The Prime Minister: The Office and its Holders
since 1945, Chapter 7, p. 150
Clement Attlee (excerpts from M, Thatcher in primary sources
section towards bottom)". spartacus educational. Retrieved 2 August
^ Tanner, Duncan;
Pat Thane & Nick Tiratsoo. Labour's First
^ Regina Cowen Karp, ed. (1991). Security with Nuclear Weapons?:
Different Perspectives on National Security. Oxford UP.
p. 145ff. CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
^ Peter Hennessy, Cabinets and the Bomb, Oxford University Press,
^ Lloyd Lorna (1997). "Britain and the transformation from empire to
Commonwealth: The significance of the immediate post‐war years". The
Round Table. 86 (343): 333–360. doi:10.1080/00358539708454371.
^ Peter Clarke, “Attlee: The Making of the Postwar Consensus” in
Peter Clarke, A Question of Leadership: Gladstone to Thatcher
(Harmondsworth, 1992), pp. 193–21
^ "Rating British Prime Ministers". Ipsos MORI. 29 November 2004.
Archived from the original on 12 September 2011. Retrieved 2 October
^ "ATTLEE, RICHARD CLEMENT (1883–1976)". English Heritage. Retrieved
5 August 2012.
^ The Times, 16 December 1948, pg 3.
^ "December03". Btinternet.com. 30 November 1988. Retrieved 2 October
^ a b "Vandalised Attlee statue being moved to safety". East London
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^ "Harold Wilson". Number 10. Archived from the original on 11 October
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statue". Queen Mary University of London. Retrieved 8 July 2011.
^ Cracroft's Peerage. "Attlee, Earl (UK, 1955)". Retrieved 26 June
^ Brookshire, Jerry Hardman (1995). Clement Attlee. New York:
Manchester University Press. p. 15.
Beckett, Francis (1998). Clem Attlee: A Biography. Blake.
Pearce, Robert (1997). Attlee. Longman. ISBN 0582256909.
Beech, Matt; Lee, Simon (2008). Ten Years of New Labour. Palgrave
Macmillan. ISBN 978-0230574434.
Hill, C. P. (1970). British Economic and Social History, 1700–1964
(3rd rev. ed.). Hodder & Stoughton Educational.
Kay, Kingsley (1946). "Development of industrial hygiene in Canada"
(PDF). Industrial Safety Survey. Montreal. XXII (1). Archived from the
original (PDF) on 25 October 2016.
Lowe, Norman (1997). Mastering Modern World History. Palgrave Master
Series (3rd rev. ed.). Palgrave Macmillan.
Morgan, Kenneth (1984). Labour in Power, 1945–51. OUP.
Munro, Donald, ed. (1948). Socialism: The British Way. Essential
Thomas-Symonds, Nicklaus (2012). Attlee: A Life in Politics.
I.B.Tauris. ISBN 978-1780762159.
Clement Attlee published his memoirs, As it Happened, in 1954.
Francis Williams' A Prime Minister Remembers, based on interviews with
Attlee, was published in 1961.
Attlee's other publications
The Social Worker (1920);
Metropolitan Borough Councils Their Constitution, Powers and Duties
– Fabian Tract No 190 (1920)
The Town Councillor (1925);
The Will and the Way to
The Labour Party in Perspective (1937);
Collective Security Under the United Nations (1958);
Empire into Commonwealth (1961).
Beckett, Francis. Clem Attlee (1998) – updated and revised and
expanded edition, Clem Attlee: Labour's Great Reformer (2015)
Bew, John. Citizen Clem: A Biography of Attlee, (London: 2016, British
edition); Clement Attlee: The Man Who Made Modern Britain (New York:
Oxford U.P. 2017, U.S. edition).
Burridge, Trevor. Clement Attlee: A Political Biography, (1985),
Crowcroft, Robert. Attlee's War: World War II and the Making of a
Labour Leader (IB Tauris, 2011).
Harris, Kenneth. Attlee (1982), scholarly authorised biography.
Howell, David. Attlee (2006)
Jago, Michael. Clement Attlee: The Inevitable Prime Minister (2014)
Pearce, Robert. Attlee (1997), 206pp
Thomas-Symonds, Nicklaus. Attlee: A Life in Politics (IB Tauris,
Whiting, R. C. "Attlee, Clement Richard, first Earl Attlee
(1883–1967)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004; online
edn, Jan 2011 accessed 12 June 2013 doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/30498
Biographies of his Cabinet and associates
Rosen, Greg. ed. Dictionary of Labour Biography. (Politicos
Publishing, 2002); ISBN 1-902301-18-8
Morgan, Kenneth O. Labour people: leaders and lieutenants, Hardie to
Addison, Paul. No Turning Back: The Peaceful Revolutions of Post-War
Britain (2011) excerpt and text search
Brady, Robert A. (1950). Crisis in Britain. Plans and Achievements of
the Labour Government... University of California Press. ,
detailed coverage of nationalisation, welfare state and planning.
Crowcroft, Robert, and Kevin Theakston. "The Fall of the Attlee
Government, 1951." in Timothy Heppell and Kevin Theakston, eds. How
Labour Governments Fall (Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2013). PP 61–82.
Francis, Martin. Ideas and policies under Labour, 1945–1951:
building a new Britain (Manchester UP, 1997).
Golant, W. "The Emergence of CR Attlee as Leader of the Parliamentary
Labour Party in 1935." Historical Journal 13#2 (1970): 318–332. in
Hennessy, Peter (2006). Never Again: Britain 1945–51 (2 ed.).
London: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-101602-7.
Jeffreys, Kevin. "The Attlee Years, 1935–1955." The Labour Party.
Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2000. 68-86.
Kynaston, David. Austerity Britain, 1945–1951 (2008).
Mioni, Michele. "The Attlee government and welfare state reforms in
Socialism (1945–51): Between universalism and class
policies." Labor History 57#2 (2016): 277–297.
Morgan, Kenneth O. Labour in Power 1945–1951 (1984), 564 pp.
Ovendale, R. ed., The foreign policy of the British Labour
governments, 1945–51 (1984) ·
Pugh, Martin. Speak for Britain!: A New History of the Labour Party
(2011) excerpt and text search
Smith Raymond, Zametica John (1985). "The Cold Warrior: Clement Attlee
Reconsidered, 1945-7". International Affairs. 61 (2): 237–252.
doi:10.2307/2617482. JSTOR 2617482.
Swift, John. Labour in Crisis:
Clement Attlee & the Labour Party
in Opposition, 1931–1940 (2001)
Tomlinson, Jim. Democratic
Socialism and Economic Policy: The Attlee
Years, 1945–1951 (2002) Excerpt and text search
Weiler, Peter. "British Labour and the cold war: the foreign policy of
the Labour governments, 1945–1951." Journal of British Studies 26#1
(1987): 54–82. in JSTOR
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