Clement Attlee
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Clement Richard Attlee, 1st Earl Attlee, (3 January 18838 October 1967) was a British politician who served as
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom The prime minister of the United Kingdom is the head of government of the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country in Europe, off the ...
from 1945 to 1951 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1935 to 1955. He was
Deputy Prime Minister A deputy prime minister or vice prime minister is, in some countries, a Minister (government), government minister who can take the position of acting prime minister when the prime minister is temporarily absent. The position is often likened to th ...
during the wartime coalition government under
Winston Churchill Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (30 November 187424 January 1965) was a British statesman, soldier, and writer who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom twice, from 1940 to 1945 Winston Churchill in the Second World War, dur ...
, and served twice as
Leader of the Opposition The Leader of the Opposition is a title traditionally held by the leader of the Opposition (parliamentary), largest political party not in government, typical in countries utilizing the parliamentary system form of government. The leader of the ...
from 1935 to 1940 and from 1951 to 1955. Attlee remains the longest serving Labour leader. Attlee was born into an upper-middle-class family, the son of a wealthy London solicitor. After attending the public school
Haileybury College Haileybury may refer to: Australia * Haileybury (Melbourne), a school in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia **Haileybury Rendall School, an offshoot in Berrimah, North Territory, Australia China * Haileybury International School, an international ...
and the
University of Oxford The University of Oxford is a collegiate university, collegiate research university in Oxford, England. There is evidence of teaching as early as 1096, making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world and the List of oldest universit ...
, he practised as a
barrister A barrister is a type of lawyer in common law jurisdiction (area), jurisdictions. Barristers mostly specialise in courtroom advocacy and litigation. Their tasks include taking cases in superior courts and tribunals, drafting legal pleadings, rese ...
. The volunteer work he carried out in London's East End exposed him to poverty, and his political views shifted leftwards thereafter. He joined the
Independent Labour Party The Independent Labour Party (ILP) was a British political party of the left, established in 1893 at a conference in Bradford, after local and national dissatisfaction with the Liberal Party (UK), Liberals' apparent reluctance to endorse worki ...
, gave up his legal career, and began lecturing at the
London School of Economics The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) is a public university, public research university located in London, England and a constituent college of the federal University of London. Founded in 1895 by Fabian Society members Sidn ...
. His work was interrupted by service as an officer in the
First World War World War I (28 July 1914 11 November 1918), often abbreviated as WWI, was List of wars and anthropogenic disasters by death toll, one of the deadliest global conflicts in history. Belligerents included much of Europe, the Russian Empire, ...
. In 1919, he became mayor of
Stepney Stepney is a district in the East End of London in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. The district is no longer officially defined, and is usually used to refer to a relatively small area. However, for much of its history the place name appli ...
and in
1922 Events January * January 7 – Dáil Éireann (Irish Republic), Dáil Éireann, the parliament of the Irish Republic, ratifies the Anglo-Irish Treaty by 64–57 votes. * January 10 – Arthur Griffith is elected President of Dáil Éirean ...
was elected
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for
Limehouse Limehouse is a district in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets in East London. It is east of Charing Cross, on the northern bank of the River Thames. Its proximity to the river has given it a strong maritime character, which it retains through ...
. Attlee served in the first Labour minority government led by
Ramsay MacDonald James Ramsay MacDonald (; 12 October 18669 November 1937) was a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the first who belonged to the Labour Party (UK), Labour Party, leading Minority government, minority Labour ...
in 1924, and then joined the Cabinet during MacDonald's second minority (1929–1931). After retaining his seat in Labour's landslide defeat of
1931 Events January * January 2 – South Dakota native Ernest Lawrence invents the cyclotron, used to accelerate particles to study nuclear physics. * January 4 – German pilot Elly Beinhorn begins her flight to Africa. * January 22 – Sir I ...
, he became the party's Deputy Leader. Elected Leader of the Labour Party in 1935, and at first advocating pacificism and opposing re-armament, he became a critic of
Neville Chamberlain Arthur Neville Chamberlain (; 18 March 18699 November 1940) was a British politician of the Conservative Party (UK), Conservative Party who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from May 1937 to May 1940. He is best known for his for ...
's
appeasement Appeasement in an international context is a diplomacy, diplomatic policy of making political, material, or territorial concessions to an aggressive power (international relations), power in order to avoid conflict. The term is most often appli ...
of
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and
Benito Mussolini Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini (; 29 July 188328 April 1945) was an Italian politician and journalist who founded and led the National Fascist Party. He was Prime Minister of Italy from the March on Rome in 1922 until Fall of the Fascist re ...
in the lead-up to the
Second World War World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a world war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved the World War II by country, vast majority of the world's countries—including all of the great power ...
. Attlee took Labour into the wartime coalition government in 1940 and served under
Winston Churchill Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (30 November 187424 January 1965) was a British statesman, soldier, and writer who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom twice, from 1940 to 1945 Winston Churchill in the Second World War, dur ...
, initially as
Lord Privy Seal The Lord Privy Seal (or, more formally, the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal) is the fifth of the Great Officers of State (United Kingdom), Great Officers of State in the United Kingdom, ranking beneath the Lord President of the Council and abov ...
and then as
Deputy Prime Minister A deputy prime minister or vice prime minister is, in some countries, a Minister (government), government minister who can take the position of acting prime minister when the prime minister is temporarily absent. The position is often likened to th ...
from 1942. As the European front of WWII reached its conclusion, the war cabinet headed by Churchill was dissolved and elections were scheduled to be held. The Labour Party, led by Attlee, won a landslide victory in the 1945 general election, on their post-war recovery platform. Following the election, Attlee led the construction of the first Labour majority government. His government's Keynesian approach to economic management aimed to maintain
full employment Full employment is a situation in which there is no cyclical or unemployment#Cyclical unemployment, deficient-demand unemployment. Full employment does not entail the disappearance of all unemployment, as other kinds of unemployment, namely Structu ...
, a
mixed economy A mixed economy is variously defined as an economic system blending elements of a market economy with elements of a planned economy, Market (economics), markets with state interventionism, or private enterprise with public enterprise. Common to ...
and a greatly enlarged system of social services provided by the state. To this end, it undertook the
nationalisation Nationalization (nationalisation in British English British English (BrE, en-GB, or BE) is, according to Oxford Dictionaries, " English as used in Great Britain, as distinct from that used elsewhere". More narrowly, it can refer speci ...
of public utilities and major industries, and implemented wide-ranging social reforms, including the passing of the National Insurance Act 1946 and National Assistance Act, the formation of the
National Health Service The National Health Service (NHS) is the umbrella term for the publicly funded health care, publicly funded healthcare systems of the United Kingdom (UK). Since 1948, they have been funded out of general taxation. There are three systems which ...
(NHS) in 1948, and the enlargement of public subsidies for
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building. His government also reformed
trade union A trade union (labor union in American English), often simply referred to as a union, is an organization of workers intent on "maintaining or improving the conditions of their employment", ch. I such as attaining better wages and Employee ben ...
legislation, working practices and children's services; it created the
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system, passed the
New Towns Act 1946 The New Towns Acts were a series of Act of Parliament (UK), Acts of the Parliament of the United Kingdom to found new settlements or to expand substantially existing ones, to establish Development Corporations to deliver them, and to create a Com ...
and established the town and country planning system. Attlee's foreign policy focused on
decolonization Decolonization or decolonisation is the undoing of colonialism, the latter being the process whereby imperial nations establish and dominate foreign territories, often overseas. Some scholars of decolonization focus especially on independence ...
efforts which he delegated to
Ernest Bevin Ernest Bevin (9 March 1881 – 14 April 1951) was a British statesman, trade union leader, and Labour Party (UK), Labour Party politician. He co-founded and served as General Secretary of the powerful Transport and General Workers' Union in th ...
, but personally oversaw the
partition of India The Partition of British India in 1947 was the Partition (politics), change of political borders and the division of other assets that accompanied the dissolution of the British Raj in South Asia and the creation of two independent dominions: ...
(1947), the independence of
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and
Ceylon Sri Lanka (, ; si, ශ්‍රී ලංකා, Śrī Laṅkā, translit-std=ISO (); ta, இலங்கை, Ilaṅkai, translit-std=ISO ()), formerly known as Ceylon and officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is an ...
, and the dissolution of the British mandates of Palestine and Transjordan. He and Bevin encouraged the United States to take a vigorous role in the
Cold War The Cold War is a term commonly used to refer to a period of Geopolitics, geopolitical tension between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies, the Western Bloc and the Eastern Bloc. The term ''Cold war (term), co ...
; unable to afford military intervention in
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during its civil war, he called on Washington to counter the communists there. The strategy of
containment Containment was a Geopolitics, geopolitical strategic foreign policy pursued by the United States during the Cold War to prevent the spread of communism after the end of World War II. The name was loosely related to the term ''Cordon sanitaire ...
was formalized between the two nations through the
Truman Doctrine The Truman Doctrine is an Foreign policy of the United States, American foreign policy that pledged American "support for democracies against authoritarian threats." The doctrine originated with the primary goal of containing Soviet Union, Soviet ...
. He supported the
Marshall Plan The Marshall Plan (officially the European Recovery Program, ERP) was an American initiative enacted in 1948 to provide foreign aid to Western Europe. The United States transferred over $13 billion (equivalent of about $ in ) in economic re ...
to rebuild Western Europe with American money and, in 1949, promoted the
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military alliance against the
Soviet bloc The Eastern Bloc, also known as the Communist Bloc and the Soviet Bloc, was the group of socialist states of Central and Eastern Europe, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America under the influence of the Soviet Union that existed du ...
. After leading Labour to a narrow victory at the 1950 general election, he sent British troops to fight alongside South Korea in the
Korean War , date = {{Ubl, 25 June 1950 – 27 July 1953 (''de facto'')({{Age in years, months, weeks and days, month1=6, day1=25, year1=1950, month2=7, day2=27, year2=1953), 25 June 1950 – present (''de jure'')({{Age in years, months, weeks a ...
. Attlee had inherited a country close to bankruptcy following the
Second World War World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a world war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved the World War II by country, vast majority of the world's countries—including all of the great power ...
and beset by food, housing and resource shortages; despite his social reforms and economic programme, these problems persisted throughout his premiership, alongside recurrent currency crises and dependence on US aid. His party was narrowly defeated by the Conservatives in the 1951 general election, despite winning the most votes. He continued as Labour leader but retired after losing the 1955 election and was elevated to the
House of Lords The House of Lords, also known as the House of Peers, is the Bicameralism, upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Membership is by Life peer, appointment, Hereditary peer, heredity or Lords Spiritual, official function. Like the ...
, where he served until his death in 1967. In public, he was modest and unassuming, but behind the scenes his depth of knowledge, quiet demeanour, objectivity and pragmatism proved decisive. He is often ranked as one of the greatest British prime ministers. Attlee's reputation among scholars has grown, thanks to his role in the
Second World War World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a world war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved the World War II by country, vast majority of the world's countries—including all of the great power ...
, creation of the modern
welfare state A welfare state is a form of government in which the state (or a well-established network of social institutions) protects and promotes the economic and social well-being of its citizens, based upon the principles of equal opportunity Equa ...
, and the establishment of the NHS. He is also commended for continuing the
special relationship The Special Relationship is a term that is often used to describe the politics, political, social, diplomacy, diplomatic, culture, cultural, economics, economic, law, legal, Biophysical environment, environmental, religion, religious, military ...
with the US and active involvement in NATO.


Early life and education

Attlee was born on 3 January 1883 in
Putney Putney () is a district of southwest London, England, in the London Borough of Wandsworth, southwest of Charing Cross. The area is identified in the London Plan as one of 35 major centres in Greater London. History Putney is an ancient paris ...
, Surrey (now part of London), into an upper 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. His parents were "committed Anglicans" who read prayers and psalms each morning at breakfast. Attlee grew up in a two-storey villa with a large garden and tennis court, staffed by three servants and a gardener. His father, a political Liberal, had inherited family interests in milling and brewing, and became a senior partner in the law firm of Druces, also serving a term as president of the
Law Society of England and Wales The Law Society of England and Wales (officially The Law Society) is the professional association that represents solicitors for the jurisdiction of England and Wales. It provides services and support to practising and training solicitors, as ...
. In 1898 he purchased a estate in Thorpe-le-Soken, Essex. At the age of nine, Attlee was sent to board at Northaw Place, a boys' preparatory school in
Hertfordshire Hertfordshire ( or ; often abbreviated Herts) is one of the home counties in southern England. It borders Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire to the north, Essex to the east, Greater London to the south, and Buckinghamshire to the west. For govern ...
. In 1896 he followed his brothers to
Haileybury College Haileybury may refer to: Australia * Haileybury (Melbourne), a school in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia **Haileybury Rendall School, an offshoot in Berrimah, North Territory, Australia China * Haileybury International School, an international ...
, where he was a middling student. He was influenced by the Darwinist views of his housemaster Frederick Webb Headley, and in 1899 he published an attack on striking London cab-drivers in the school magazine, predicting they would soon have to "beg for their fares". In 1901, Attlee went up to
University College, Oxford University College (in full The College of the Great Hall of the University of Oxford, colloquially referred to as "Univ") is a constituent college of the University of Oxford in England. It has a claim to being the oldest college of the univ ...
, reading
modern history The term modern period or modern era (sometimes also called modern history or modern times) is the period of history that succeeds the Middle Ages (which ended approximately 1500 AD). This terminology is a historical periodization that is applie ...
. He and his brother Tom "were given a generous stipend by their father and embraced the university lifestyle—rowing, reading and socializing". He was later described by a tutor as "level-headed, industrious, dependable man with no brilliance of style ... but with excellent sound judgement". At university he had little interest in politics or economics, later describing his views at this time as "good old fashioned imperialist conservative". He graduated Bachelor of Arts in 1904 with second-class honours. Attlee then trained as a
barrister A barrister is a type of lawyer in common law jurisdiction (area), jurisdictions. Barristers mostly specialise in courtroom advocacy and litigation. Their tasks include taking cases in superior courts and tribunals, drafting legal pleadings, rese ...
at the
Inner Temple The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple, commonly known as the Inner Temple, is one of the four Inns of Court and is a professional associations for barristers and judges. To be called to the Bar and practise as a barrister in England and Wal ...
and was
called to the bar The call to the bar is a legal term of art in most common law jurisdictions where persons must be qualified to be allowed to argue in court on behalf of another party and are then said to have been "called to the bar" or to have received "call to ...
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 Fleet may refer to: Vehicles *Fishing fleet *Naval fleet *Fleet vehicles, a pool of motor vehicles *Fleet Aircraft, the aircraft manufacturing company Places Canada *Fleet, Alberta, Canada, a hamlet England *Chesil Beach#The Fleet Lagoon, The ...
. Attlee's father died in 1908, leaving an estate valued for probate at £75,394 (equivalent to £ in ).


Early career

In 1906, he became a volunteer at Haileybury House, a charitable club for working-class boys in
Stepney Stepney is a district in the East End of London in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. The district is no longer officially defined, and is usually used to refer to a relatively small area. However, for much of its history the place name appli ...
in the
East End of London The East End of London, often referred to within the London area simply as the East End, is the historic core of wider East London, east of the Roman and medieval walls of the City of London and north of the River Thames. It does not have univ ...
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 A slum is a highly populated Urban area, urban residential area consisting of densely packed housing units of weak build quality and often associated with poverty. The infrastructure in slums is often deteriorated or incomplete, and they are p ...
children, he came to the view that private charity would never be sufficient to alleviate poverty and that only direct action and
income redistribution Redistribution of income and wealth is the transfer of income and wealth (including physical property) from some individuals to others through a social mechanism such as taxation, welfare, public services, land reform, monetary policies, confisc ...
by the state would have any serious effect. This sparked a process that caused him to convert to
socialism Socialism is a left-wing Economic ideology, economic philosophy and Political movement, movement encompassing a range of economic systems characterized by the dominance of social ownership of the means of production as opposed to Private prop ...
. He subsequently joined the
Independent Labour Party The Independent Labour Party (ILP) was a British political party of the left, established in 1893 at a conference in Bradford, after local and national dissatisfaction with the Liberal Party (UK), Liberals' apparent reluctance to endorse worki ...
(ILP) in 1908 and became active in local politics. In 1909, he stood unsuccessfully at his first election, as an ILP candidate for Stepney Borough Council. He also worked briefly as a secretary for
Beatrice Webb Martha Beatrice Webb, Baroness Passfield, (née Potter; 22 January 1858 – 30 April 1943) was an English sociologist, economist, socialist, labour historian and social reformer. It was Webb who coined the term '' collective bargaining''. She ...
in 1909, before becoming a secretary for Toynbee Hall. He worked for Webb's campaign of popularisation of the Minority Report as he was very active in
Fabian Society The Fabian Society is a History of the socialist movement in the United Kingdom, British socialist organisation whose purpose is to advance the principles of social democracy and democratic socialism via gradualist and reformist effort in demo ...
circles, in which he would go round visiting many political societies—Liberal, Conservative and socialist—to explain and popularise the ideas, as well as recruiting lecturers deemed suitable to work on the campaign. In 1911, he was employed by the
Government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state. In the case of its broad associative definition, government normally consists of legislature, executive, and judiciary. Government ...
as an "official explainer"—touring the country to explain
Chancellor of the Exchequer The chancellor of the Exchequer, often abbreviated to chancellor, is a senior minister of the Crown within the Government of the United Kingdom, and head of HM Treasury, His Majesty's Treasury. As one of the four Great Offices of State, the Ch ...
David Lloyd George David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, (17 January 1863 – 26 March 1945) was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1916 to 1922. He was a Liberal Party (United Kingdom), Liberal Party politician from Wales, known for lea ...
's
National Insurance Act The National Insurance Act 1911 created National Insurance, originally a system of health insurance for industrial workers in Great Britain based on contributions from employers, the government, and the workers themselves. It was one of the foun ...
. He spent the summer of that year touring
Essex Essex () is a Ceremonial counties of England, county in the East of England. One of the home counties, it borders Suffolk and Cambridgeshire to the north, the North Sea to the east, Hertfordshire to the west, Kent across the estuary of the Riv ...
and
Somerset Somerset ( , ; Archaism, archaically Somersetshire , , ) is a Ceremonial counties of England, county in South West England which borders Gloucestershire and Bristol to the north, Wiltshire to the east, Dorset to the south-east and Devon to the so ...
on a bicycle, explaining the Act at public meetings. A year later, he became a lecturer at the
London School of Economics The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) is a public university, public research university located in London, England and a constituent college of the federal University of London. Founded in 1895 by Fabian Society members Sidn ...
, teaching
Social science Social science is one of the branches of science, devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within those societies. The term was formerly used to refer to the field of sociology, the o ...
and
Public administration Public Administration (a form of governance) or Public Policy and Administration (an academic discipline) is the implementation of public policy, administration Administration may refer to: Management of organizations * Management, the a ...
.


Military service during the First World War

Following the outbreak of the
First World War World War I (28 July 1914 11 November 1918), often abbreviated as WWI, was List of wars and anthropogenic disasters by death toll, one of the deadliest global conflicts in history. Belligerents included much of Europe, the Russian Empire, ...
in August 1914, Attlee applied to join the
British Army The British Army is the principal land warfare force of the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country in Europe, off the north-western ...
. Initially his application was turned down, as at the age of 31 he was seen as being too old; however, he was eventually commissioned as a temporary lieutenant in the 6th (Service) Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment, on 30 September 1914. On 9 February 1915 he was promoted to
captain Captain is a title, an appellative for the commanding officer of a military unit; the supreme leader of a navy ship, merchant ship, aeroplane, spacecraft, or other vessel; or the commander of a port, fire or police department, election precinct, e ...
, and on 14 March was appointed battalion
adjutant Adjutant is a military appointment given to an Officer (armed forces), officer who assists the commanding officer with unit administration, mostly the management of human resources in an army unit. The term is used in French-speaking armed forc ...
. The 6th South Lancashires were part of the 38th Brigade of the
13th (Western) Division The 13th (Western) Division was one of the Kitchener's Army Division (military), divisions in the World War I, First World War, raised from volunteers by Horatio Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener of Khartoum, Lord Kitchener. It fought at Battle of Ga ...
, which served in the Gallipoli campaign in
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. Attlee's decision to fight caused a rift between him and his older brother Tom, who, as a
conscientious objector A conscientious objector (often shortened to conchie) is an "individual who has claimed the right to refuse to perform military service" on the grounds of freedom of thought, conscience, or religion Religion is usually defined as a so ...
, spent much of the war in prison. After a period spent fighting in Gallipoli, Attlee collapsed after falling ill with
dysentery Dysentery (UK pronunciation: , US: ), historically known as the bloody flux, is a type of gastroenteritis that results in bloody diarrhea. Other symptoms may include fever, abdominal pain, and a feeling of incomplete defecation. Complicati ...
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 in order 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 View of Suvla from Battleship Hill Suvla () is a bay on the Aegean coast of the Gallipoli The Gallipoli peninsula (; tr, Gelibolu Yarımadası; grc, Χερσόνησος της Καλλίπολης, ) is located in the southern part of ...
, the last being General Stanley Maude. The Gallipoli Campaign had been engineered by the
First Lord of the Admiralty The First Lord of the Admiralty, or formally the Office of the First Lord of the Admiralty, was the political head of the English and later British Royal Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force. Although war ...
,
Winston Churchill Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (30 November 187424 January 1965) was a British statesman, soldier, and writer who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom twice, from 1940 to 1945 Winston Churchill in the Second World War, dur ...
. Although it was unsuccessful, Attlee believed that it was a bold strategy which could have been successful if it had been better implemented on the ground. This led to an admiration for Churchill as a military strategist, something which would make their working relationship in later years productive. He later served in the
Mesopotamian campaign The Mesopotamian campaign was a campaign in the Middle Eastern theatre of World War I fought between the Allies of World War I, Allies represented by the British Empire, troops from United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Britain, Australi ...
in what is now
Iraq Iraq,; ku, عێراق, translit=Êraq officially the Republic of Iraq, '; ku, کۆماری عێراق, translit=Komarî Êraq is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered by Turkey to Iraq–Turkey border, the north, Iran to Iran–Iraq ...
, where in April 1916 he was badly wounded, being hit in the leg by shrapnel from friendly fire while storming an enemy trench during the Battle of Hanna. The battle was an unsuccessful attempt to relieve the
Siege of Kut The siege of Kut Al Amara (7 December 1915 – 29 April 1916), also known as the first battle of Kut, was the besieging of an 8,000 strong British Army garrison in the town of Kut, south of Baghdad Baghdad (; ar, بَغْدَاد , ) i ...
, and many of Attlee's fellow soldiers were also wounded or killed. He was sent firstly to
India India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by area, seventh-largest country by area, the List of countries and dependencies by population, second-most populous ...
, and then back to the UK to recover. On 18 December 1916 he was transferred to the Heavy Section of the
Machine Gun Corps The Machine Gun Corps (MGC) was a Regiment, corps of the British Army, formed in October 1915 in response to the need for more effective use of machine guns on the Western Front (World War I), Western Front in the World War I, First World War. Th ...
, and 1 March 1917 he was promoted to the temporary rank of
major Major (Commandant (rank), commandant in certain jurisdictions) is a military rank of commissioned officer status, with corresponding ranks existing in many military forces throughout the world. When used unhyphenated and in conjunction with ...
, leading him to be known as "Major Attlee" for much of the
inter-war period In the history of the 20th century, the interwar period lasted from 11 November 1918 to 1 September 1939 (20 years, 9 months, 21 days), the end of the World War I, First World War to the beginning of the World War II, Second World War. The in ...
. He would spend most of 1917 training soldiers at various locations in England. From 2 to 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 Dorset ( ; archaically: Dorsetshire , ) is a county in South West England on the English Channel coast. The ceremonial county comprises the unitary authority areas of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole and Dorset. Covering an area of ...
. 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, as he was transferred back to the South Lancashire Regiment on 28 November. 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 Stepney is a district in the East End of London in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. The district is no longer officially defined, and is usually used to refer to a relatively small area. However, for much of its history the place name appli ...
, and returned to his old job lecturing part-time at the
London School of Economics The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) is a public university, public research university located in London, England and a constituent college of the federal University of London. Founded in 1895 by Fabian Society members Sidn ...
.


Marriage and children

Attlee met Violet Millar while on a long trip with friends to Italy in 1921. They fell in love and were soon engaged, marrying 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 children: * Lady Janet Helen (1923–2019), she married the scientist Harold Shipton (1920–2007) at Ellesborough Parish Church in 1947. * Lady Felicity Ann (1925–2007), married the business executive John Keith Harwood (1926–1989) at Little Hampden in 1955 * Martin Richard, Viscount Prestwood, later 2nd Earl Attlee (1927–1991) * Lady Alison Elizabeth (1930–2016), married Richard Davis at Great Missenden in 1952.


Early political career


Local politics

Attlee returned to local politics in the immediate post-war period, becoming mayor of the
Metropolitan Borough of Stepney The Metropolitan Borough of Stepney was a Metropolitan boroughs of the County of London, Metropolitan borough in the County of London created in 1900. In 1965 it became part of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Formation and boundaries The bo ...
, one of London's most deprived inner-city boroughs, in 1919. During his time as mayor, the council undertook action to tackle
slum A slum is a highly populated Urban area, urban residential area consisting of densely packed housing units of weak build quality and often associated with poverty. The infrastructure in slums is often deteriorated or incomplete, and they are p ...
landlord A landlord is the owner of a house, apartment, condominium, land, or real estate which is Renting, rented or leased to an individual or business, who is called a Leasehold estate, tenant (also a ''lessee'' or ''renter''). When a juristic person ...
s 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 community.
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 caprice.
In 1921,
George Lansbury George Lansbury (22 February 1859 – 7 May 1940) was a British politician and social reformer who led the Labour Party (UK), Labour Party from 1932 to 1935. Apart from a brief period of ministerial office during the Labour government of 1 ...
, 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 of Morrison.Howell, David. (2006) ''Attlee (20 British Prime Ministers of the 20th Century)'', Haus Publishing; .


Member of Parliament

At the 1922 general election, Attlee became the Member of Parliament (MP) for the
constituency An electoral district, also known as an election district, legislative district, voting district, constituency, riding, ward, division, or (election) precinct is a subdivision of a larger state (a country A country is a distinct part o ...
of
Limehouse Limehouse is a district in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets in East London. It is east of Charing Cross, on the northern bank of the River Thames. Its proximity to the river has given it a strong maritime character, which it retains through ...
in
Stepney Stepney is a district in the East End of London in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. The district is no longer officially defined, and is usually used to refer to a relatively small area. However, for much of its history the place name appli ...
. At the time, he admired
Ramsay MacDonald James Ramsay MacDonald (; 12 October 18669 November 1937) was a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the first who belonged to the Labour Party (UK), Labour Party, leading Minority government, minority Labour ...
and helped him get elected as Labour Party leader at the 1922 leadership election. He served as MacDonald's
Parliamentary Private Secretary A Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) is a Member of Parliament (United Kingdom), Member of Parliament (MP) in the United Kingdom who acts as an unpaid assistant to a Minister of the Crown, minister or Shadow Minister, shadow minister. They ar ...
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 politics. In 1927, he was appointed a member of the multi-party
Simon Commission The Indian Statutory Commission also known as Simon Commission, was a group of seven Members of Parliament of the United Kingdom, Parliament under the chairmanship of John Simon, 1st Viscount Simon, Sir John Simon. The commission arrived in In ...
, a royal commission set up to examine the possibility of granting self-rule to
India India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by area, seventh-largest country by area, the List of countries and dependencies by population, second-most populous ...
. 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 Sir Oswald Ernald Mosley, 6th Baronet (16 November 1896 – 3 December 1980) was a British politician during the 1920s and 1930s who rose to fame when, having become disillusioned with mainstream politics, he turned to fascism Fascism i ...
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 The chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is a ministerial office in the Government of the United Kingdom. The position is the second highest ranking minister in the Cabinet Office, immediately after the Prime Minister, and senior to the Minist ...
. In March 1931, he became
Postmaster General A Postmaster General, in Anglosphere countries, is the chief executive officer of the postal service of that country, a Ministry (government department), ministerial office responsible for overseeing all other postmasters. The practice of having ...
, 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 The Great Depression (19291939) was an economic shock that impacted most countries across the world. It was a period of economic depression that became evident after a major fall in stock prices in the United States. The Financial contagion, ...
. That month MacDonald and a few of his allies formed a National Government with the
Conservatives Conservatism is a Philosophy of culture, cultural, Social philosophy, social, and political philosophy that seeks to promote and to preserve traditional institutions, practices, and values. The central tenets of conservatism may vary in r ...
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. After
Ramsay MacDonald James Ramsay MacDonald (; 12 October 18669 November 1937) was a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the first who belonged to the Labour Party (UK), Labour Party, leading Minority government, minority Labour ...
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 write:
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 World War I (28 July 1914 11 November 1918), often abbreviated as WWI, was List of wars and anthropogenic disasters by death toll, one of the deadliest global conflicts in history. Belligerents included much of Europe, the Russian Empire, ...
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.


1930s opposition


Deputy Leader

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, including the Leader
Arthur Henderson Arthur Henderson (13 September 1863 – 20 October 1935) was a British iron moulder A moldmaker (mouldmaker in English-speaking countries other than the US) or molder is a skilled tradesperson who fabricates molding (process), moulds for use ...
, lost their seats. Attlee, however, narrowly retained his Limehouse seat, 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 George Lansbury (22 February 1859 – 7 May 1940) was a British politician and social reformer who led the Labour Party (UK), Labour Party from 1932 to 1935. Apart from a brief period of ministerial office during the Labour government of 1 ...
and
Stafford Cripps Sir Richard Stafford Cripps (24 April 1889 – 21 April 1952) was a British Labour Party (UK), Labour Party politician, barrister, and diplomat. A wealthy lawyer by background, he first entered Parliament at a 1931 Bristol East by-election, by- ...
. 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 The Leader of the Opposition is a title traditionally held by the leader of the Opposition (parliamentary), largest political party not in government, typical in countries utilizing the parliamentary system form of government. The leader of the ...
. 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 over again. 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 Socialist League, which had been formed by former
Independent Labour Party The Independent Labour Party (ILP) was a British political party of the left, established in 1893 at a conference in Bradford, after local and national dissatisfaction with the Liberal Party (UK), Liberals' apparent reluctance to endorse worki ...
(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 Oliver Cromwell (25 April 15993 September 1658) was an English politician and military officer who is widely regarded as one of the most important statesmen in History of England, English history. He came to prominence during the 1639 to 1651 ...
'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 Totalitarianism is a form of government and a political system that prohibits all opposition parties, outlaws individual and group opposition to the state and its claims, and exercises an extremely high if not complete degree of control and reg ...
of either the left or right. He always supported the crown, and as Prime Minister was close to King George VI.


Leader of the Opposition

George Lansbury George Lansbury (22 February 1859 – 7 May 1940) was a British politician and social reformer who led the Labour Party (UK), Labour Party from 1932 to 1935. Apart from a brief period of ministerial office during the Labour government of 1 ...
, a committed
pacifist Pacifism is the opposition or resistance to war, militarism (including conscription and mandatory military service) or violence. Pacifists generally reject theories of Just War. The word ''pacifism'' was coined by the French peace campaigne ...
, 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 The Ethiopian Empire (), also formerly known by the exonym Abyssinia, or just simply known as Ethiopia (; Amharic and Tigrinya language, Tigrinya: ኢትዮጵያ , , Oromo language, Oromo: Itoophiyaa, Somali language, Somali: Itoobiya, Afar l ...
. 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 Stanley Baldwin, 1st Earl Baldwin of Bewdley, (3 August 186714 December 1947) was a British Conservative Party (UK), Conservative Party politician who dominated the government of the Interwar Britain, United Kingdom between the world wars, serv ...
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 per cent of the vote, the highest share Labour had won up to that point, and gaining over one hundred seats. Attlee stood in the subsequent leadership election, held soon afterward, 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, 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 Collective security can be understood as a security arrangement, political, regional, or global, in which each state in the system accepts that the security of one is the concern of all, and therefore commits to a collective response to threats t ...
under the
League of Nations The League of Nations (french: link=no, Société des Nations ) was the first worldwide Intergovernmental organization, intergovernmental organisation whose principal mission was to maintain world peace. It was founded on 10 January 1920 by ...
. 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 comments,
Adolf Hitler Adolf Hitler (; 20 April 188930 April 1945) was an Austrian-born German politician who was dictator of Germany Germany,, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central Europe. It is the second most populo ...
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 The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a List of former transcontinental countries#Since 1700, transcontinental country that spanned much of Eurasia from 1922 to 1991. A flagship communist state, ...
, 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". Attlee played little part in the events that would lead up to the abdication of Edward VIII, for despite Baldwin's threat to step down if
Edward Edward is an English language, English given name. It is derived from the Old English, Anglo-Saxon name ''Ēadweard'', composed of the elements ''wikt:ead#Old English, ēad'' "wealth, fortune; prosperous" and ''wikt:weard#Old English, weard'' "gua ...
attempted to remain on the throne after marrying
Wallis Simpson Wallis, Duchess of Windsor (born Bessie Wallis Warfield, later Simpson; June 19, 1896 – April 24, 1986), was an American Socialite#United_States, socialite and wife of the former King Edward VIII. Their intention to marry and her status ...
, Labour was widely accepted not to be a viable alternative government, owing to the National Government's overwhelming majority in the Commons. Attlee, along with Liberal leader Archibald Sinclair, was eventually consulted with by Baldwin on 24 November 1936, and Attlee agreed with both Baldwin and Sinclair that Edward could not remain on the throne, firmly eliminating any prospect of any alternative government forming were Baldwin to resign. In April 1936, the Chancellor of the Exchequer,
Neville Chamberlain Arthur Neville Chamberlain (; 18 March 18699 November 1940) was a British politician of the Conservative Party (UK), Conservative Party who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from May 1937 to May 1940. He is best known for his for ...
, introduced a Budget which increased the amount spent on the armed forces. Attlee made a radio broadcast in opposition to it, saying: In June 1936, the Conservative MP
Duff Cooper Alfred Duff Cooper, 1st Viscount Norwich, (22 February 1890 – 1 January 1954), known as Duff Cooper, was a British Conservative Party (UK), Conservative Party politician and diplomat who was also a military and political historian. First ele ...
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 policy". However, with the rising threat from
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany (lit. "National Socialist State"), ' (lit. "Nazi State") for short; also ' (lit. "National Socialist Germany") (officially known as the German Reich from 1933 until 1943, and the Greater German Reich from 1943 to 1945) was ...
, 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
appeasement Appeasement in an international context is a diplomacy, diplomatic policy of making political, material, or territorial concessions to an aggressive power (international relations), power in order to avoid conflict. The term is most often appli ...
. At the end of 1937, Attlee and a party of three Labour MPs visited Spain and visited the
British Battalion The British Battalion (1936–1938; officially the Saklatvala Battalion) was the 16th battalion of the XV International Brigade, one of the mixed brigades of the International Brigades The International Brigades ( es, Brigadas Internaci ...
of the
International Brigades The International Brigades ( es, Brigadas Internacionales) were military units set up by the Communist International to assist the Popular Front (Spain), Popular Front government of the Second Spanish Republic during the Spanish Civil War. The ...
fighting in the
Spanish Civil War The Spanish Civil War ( es, Guerra Civil Española)) or The Revolution ( es, La Revolución, link=no) among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War ( es, Cuarta Guerra Carlista, link=no) among Carlism, Carlists, and The Rebellion ( es, La Rebeli ...
. One of the companies was named the "Major Attlee Company" in his honour. Attlee was supportive of the Republican government, and at the 1937 Labour conference moved the wider Labour Party towards opposing what he considered the "farce" of the Non-Intervention Committee organised by the British and French governments. In the House of Commons, Attlee stated "I cannot understand the delusion that if Franco wins with Italian and German aid, he will immediately become independent. I think it is a ridiculous proposition." Dalton, the Labour Party's spokesman on foreign policy, also thought that Franco would ally with Germany and Italy. However, Franco's subsequent behaviour proved it was not such a ridiculous proposition. As Dalton later acknowledged, Franco skilfully maintained Spanish neutrality, whereas Hitler would have occupied Spain if Franco had lost the Civil War. In 1938, Attlee opposed the
Munich Agreement The Munich Agreement ( cs, Mnichovská dohoda; sk, Mníchovská dohoda; german: Münchner Abkommen) was an agreement concluded at Munich on 30 September 1938, by Nazi Germany, Germany, the United Kingdom, French Third Republic, France, and Fa ...
, in which Chamberlain negotiated with Hitler to give Germany the German-speaking parts of
Czechoslovakia , rue, Чеськословеньско, , yi, טשעכאסלאוואקיי, , common_name = Czechoslovakia , life_span = 1918–19391945–1992 , p1 = Austria-Hungary , image_p1 ...
, the
Sudetenland The Sudetenland ( , ; Czech language, Czech and sk, Sudety) is the historical German name for the northern, southern, and western areas of former Czechoslovakia which were inhabited primarily by Sudeten Germans. These German speakers had predo ...
:
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 violence.
and:
The cause f the crisis which we have undergonewas not the existence of minorities in Czechoslovakia; it was not that the position of the Sudeten Germans had become intolerable. It was not the wonderful principle of self-determination. It was because Herr Hitler had decided that the time was ripe for another step forward in his design to dominate Europe. ... The minorities question is no new one. It existed before the irst WorldWar and it existed after the War, because the problem of Germans in Czechoslovakia succeeded that of the Czechs in German Austria, just as the problem of Germans in the Tyrol succeeded that of the Italians in Trieste, and short of a drastic and entire reshuffling of these populations there is no possible solution to the problem of minorities in Europe except toleration.
However, the new Czechoslovakian state did not provide equal rights to the Slovaks and Sudeten Germans, with the historian Arnold J. Toynbee already having noted that "for the Germans, Magyars and Poles, who account between them for more than one quarter of the whole population, the present regime in Czechoslovakia is not essentially different from the regimes in the surrounding countries".
Anthony Eden Robert Anthony Eden, 1st Earl of Avon, (12 June 1897 – 14 January 1977) was a British Conservative Party (UK), Conservative Party politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1955 until his resignation in 195 ...
in the Munich debate acknowledged that there had been "discrimination, even severe discrimination" against the Sudeten Germans. In 1937, Attlee wrote a book entitled ''The Labour Party in Perspective'' that 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 wrote: "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 Nationalization (nationalisation in British English British English (BrE, en-GB, or BE) is, according to Oxford Dictionaries, " English as used in Great Britain, as distinct from that used elsewhere". More narrowly, it can refer speci ...
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 this support". In the late 1930s, Attlee sponsored a Jewish mother and her two children, enabling them to leave Germany in 1939 and move to the UK. On arriving in Britain, Attlee invited one of the children into his home in
Stanmore Stanmore is part of the London Borough of Harrow in London. It is centred northwest of Charing Cross, lies on the outskirts of the London urban area and includes Stanmore Hill, one of the List of highest points in London, highest points of Lond ...
, north-west London, where he stayed for several months.


Deputy Prime Minister

Attlee remained as Leader of the Opposition when the
Second World War World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a world war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved the World War II by country, vast majority of the world's countries—including all of the great power ...
broke out in September 1939. The ensuing disastrous Norwegian campaign would result in a
motion of no confidence A motion of no confidence, also variously called a vote of no confidence, no-confidence motion, motion of confidence, or vote of confidence, is a statement or vote about whether a person in a position of responsibility like in government or mana ...
in
Neville Chamberlain Arthur Neville Chamberlain (; 18 March 18699 November 1940) was a British politician of the Conservative Party (UK), Conservative Party who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from May 1937 to May 1940. He is best known for his for ...
. Although Chamberlain survived this, the reputation of his administration was so badly and publicly damaged that it became clear a
coalition government A coalition government is a form of government in which political parties cooperate to form a government. The usual reason for such an arrangement is that no single party has achieved an absolute majority after an election, an atypical outcome in ...
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 Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (30 November 187424 January 1965) was a British statesman, soldier, and writer who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom twice, from 1940 to 1945 Winston Churchill in the Second World War, dur ...
on 10 May 1940, with Attlee joining the Cabinet as
Lord Privy Seal The Lord Privy Seal (or, more formally, the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal) is the fifth of the Great Officers of State (United Kingdom), Great Officers of State in the United Kingdom, ranking beneath the Lord President of the Council and abov ...
on 12 May. Attlee and Churchill quickly agreed that the
War Cabinet A war cabinet is a committee formed by a government in a time of war to efficiently and effectively conduct that war. It is usually a subset of the full executive cabinet of ministers, although it is quite common for a war cabinet to have senior ...
would consist of three Conservatives (initially Churchill, Chamberlain and
Lord Halifax Edward Frederick Lindley Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax, (16 April 1881 – 23 December 1959), known as The Lord Irwin from 1925 until 1934 and The Viscount Halifax from 1934 until 1944, was a senior Conservative Party (UK), British Conservat ...
) 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 following the
Fall of France The Battle of France (french: bataille de France) (10 May – 25 June 1940), also known as the Western Campaign ('), the French Campaign (german: Frankreichfeldzug, ) and the Fall of France, was the German invasion of France France (), ...
in May 1940; both supported Churchill and gave him the majority he needed in the War Cabinet to continue Britain's resistance.Marr, Andrew. ''A History of Modern Britain'' (2009 paperback), pp. xv–xvii Only Attlee and Churchill remained 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 A deputy prime minister or vice prime minister is, in some countries, a Minister (government), government minister who can take the position of acting prime minister when the prime minister is temporarily absent. The position is often likened to th ...
in 1942, as well as becoming the Dominions Secretary and
Lord President of the Council The lord president of the Council is the presiding officer of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom The Privy Council (PC), officially His Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, is a formal body of advisers to the sovereign of th ...
on 28 September 1943. 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 A coalition government is a form of government in which political parties cooperate to form a government. The usual reason for such an arrangement is that no single party has achieved an absolute majority after an election, an atypical outcome in ...
, three inter-connected committees effectively ran the country. Churchill chaired the first two, the
War cabinet A war cabinet is a committee formed by a government in a time of war to efficiently and effectively conduct that war. It is usually a subset of the full executive cabinet of ministers, although it is quite common for a war cabinet to have senior ...
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 conciliator in the government, smoothing over tensions which frequently arose between Labour and Conservative Ministers. Many Labour activists were baffled by the top leadership role for a man they regarded as having little charisma;
Beatrice Webb Martha Beatrice Webb, Baroness Passfield, (née Potter; 22 January 1858 – 30 April 1943) was an English sociologist, economist, socialist, labour historian and social reformer. It was Webb who coined the term '' collective bargaining''. She ...
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. rime Ministeris pitiable".


1945 election

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 Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally , ''Nihonkoku'') is an island country in East Asia. It is situated in the northwest Pacific Ocean, and is bordered on the west by the Sea of Japan, while extending from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north ...
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 A prime minister, premier or chief of cabinet is the head of the Cabinet (government), cabinet and the leader of the Minister (government), ministers in the Executive (government), executive branch of government, often in a parliamentary syst ...
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 The Beveridge Report, officially entitled ''Social Insurance and Allied Services'' ( Cmd. 6404), is a government report, published in November 1942, influential in the founding of the welfare state A welfare state is a form of government in w ...
of 1942, by the Liberal economist
William Beveridge William Henry Beveridge, 1st Baron Beveridge, (5 March 1879 – 16 March 1963) was a British economist and Liberal Party (UK), Liberal politician who was a Progressivism, progressive and social reformer who played a central role in designing ...
. 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 A welfare state is a form of government in which the state (or a well-established network of social institutions) protects and promotes the economic and social well-being of its citizens, based upon the principles of equal opportunity Equa ...
. Immediately upon 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 was seen by the electorate as the party 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 following the war, 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 comfortable Conservative victory. Before polling day, '' The Manchester Guardian'' surmised that "the chances of Labour sweeping the country and obtaining a clear majority ... are pretty remote". The ''
News of the World The ''News of the World'' was a weekly national Tabloid journalism#Red tops, red top Tabloid (newspaper format), tabloid newspaper published every Sunday in the United Kingdom from 1843 to 2011. It was at one time the world's highest-selling En ...
'' predicted a working Conservative majority, while in
Glasgow Glasgow ( ; sco, Glesca or ; gd, Glaschu ) is the most populous city A city is a human settlement of notable size.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ' ...
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 backfired. 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 per cent of the vote to the Conservatives' 36 per cent.R. C. Whiting, "Attlee, Clement Richard, first Earl Attlee (1883–1967)", ''Oxford Dictionary of National Biography'', 2004. 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 In modern politics, and history, a parliament is a legislative body of government. Generally, a modern parliament has three functions: Representation (politics), representing the Election#Suffrage, electorate, making laws, and overseeing ...
. When Attlee went to see
King George VI George VI (Albert Frederick Arthur George; 14 December 1895 – 6 February 1952) was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth from 11 December 1936 until Death and state funeral of George VI, his death in 1952. ...
at
Buckingham Palace Buckingham Palace () is a London royal official residence, residence and the administrative headquarters of the monarch of the United Kingdom. Located in the City of Westminster, the palace is often at the centre of state occasions and roya ...
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 News".


Prime Minister

As
Prime Minister A prime minister, premier or chief of cabinet is the head of the Cabinet (government), cabinet and the leader of the Minister (government), ministers in the Executive (government), executive branch of government, often in a parliamentary syst ...
, Attlee appointed
Hugh Dalton Edward Hugh John Neale Dalton, Baron Dalton, (16 August 1887 – 13 February 1962) was a British Labour Party (UK), Labour Party economist and politician who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1945 to 1947. He shaped Labour Party foreig ...
as
Chancellor of the Exchequer The chancellor of the Exchequer, often abbreviated to chancellor, is a senior minister of the Crown within the Government of the United Kingdom, and head of HM Treasury, His Majesty's Treasury. As one of the four Great Offices of State, the Ch ...
,
Ernest Bevin Ernest Bevin (9 March 1881 – 14 April 1951) was a British statesman, trade union leader, and Labour Party (UK), Labour Party politician. He co-founded and served as General Secretary of the powerful Transport and General Workers' Union in th ...
as
Foreign Secretary The secretary of state for foreign, Commonwealth and development affairs, known as the foreign secretary, is a Secretary of State (United Kingdom), minister of the Crown of the Government of the United Kingdom and head of the Foreign, Commonwe ...
, and Herbert Morrison as
Deputy Prime Minister A deputy prime minister or vice prime minister is, in some countries, a Minister (government), government minister who can take the position of acting prime minister when the prime minister is temporarily absent. The position is often likened to th ...
, with overall responsibility for nationalisation. Additionally,
Stafford Cripps Sir Richard Stafford Cripps (24 April 1889 – 21 April 1952) was a British Labour Party (UK), Labour Party politician, barrister, and diplomat. A wealthy lawyer by background, he first entered Parliament at a 1931 Bristol East by-election, by- ...
was made
President of the Board of Trade The president of the Board of Trade is head of the Board of Trade. This is a committee of the His Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, Privy Council of the United Kingdom, first established as a temporary committee of inquiry in the 17th centu ...
,
Aneurin Bevan Aneurin "Nye" Bevan Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, PC (; 15 November 1897 – 6 July 1960) was a Welsh people, Welsh Labour Party (UK), Labour Party politician, noted for tenure as Minister of Health in Clement Attlee's go ...
became
Minister of Health A health minister is the member of a country's government typically responsible for protecting and promoting public health and providing welfare and other social security services. Some governments have separate Minister of Mental Health, ministers ...
, and Ellen Wilkinson, the only woman to serve in Attlee's cabinet, was appointed Minister of Education. The Attlee government proved itself to be a radical, reforming government. From 1945 to 1948, over 200 public
Acts of Parliament Acts of Parliament, sometimes referred to as primary legislation, are texts of law passed by the Legislature, legislative body of a jurisdiction (often a parliament or council). In most countries with a parliamentary system of government, acts of ...
were passed, with eight major pieces of legislation placed on the statute book in 1946 alone.


Domestic policy

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. On 5 July 1948, Clement Attlee replied to a letter dated 22 June from James Murray and ten other MPs who raised concerns about West Indians who arrived on board the . As for the prime minister himself, he was not much focused on economic policy, letting others handle the issues.


Health

Attlee's Health Minister,
Aneurin Bevan Aneurin "Nye" Bevan Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, PC (; 15 November 1897 – 6 July 1960) was a Welsh people, Welsh Labour Party (UK), Labour Party politician, noted for tenure as Minister of Health in Clement Attlee's go ...
, fought hard against the general disapproval of the medical establishment, including the
British Medical Association The British Medical Association (BMA) is a registered trade union for physician, doctors in the United Kingdom. The association does not regulate or certify doctors, a responsibility which lies with the General Medical Council. The association' ...
, by creating the
National Health Service The National Health Service (NHS) is the umbrella term for the publicly funded health care, publicly funded healthcare systems of the United Kingdom (UK). Since 1948, they have been funded out of general taxation. There are three systems which ...
(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 8 and a half million dental patients and dispensed more than 5 million pairs of spectacles during its first year of operation.Jefferys, Kevin. ''The Attlee Governments, 1945–1951''.


Welfare

The government set about implementing the wartime plans of Liberal
William Beveridge William Henry Beveridge, 1st Baron Beveridge, (5 March 1879 – 16 March 1963) was a British economist and Liberal Party (UK), Liberal politician who was a Progressivism, progressive and social reformer who played a central role in designing ...
for the creation of a "cradle to grave"
welfare state A welfare state is a form of government in which the state (or a well-established network of social institutions) protects and promotes the economic and social well-being of its citizens, based upon the principles of equal opportunity Equa ...
. It set in place an entirely new system of
social security Welfare, or commonly social welfare, is a type of government support intended to ensure that members of a society can meet Basic needs, basic human needs such as food and shelter. Social security may either be synonymous with welfare, or refe ...
. 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 National Insurance (NI) is a fundamental component of the welfare state in the United Kingdom. It acts as a form of social security, since payment of NI contributions establishes entitlement to certain state benefits for workers and their famili ...
. 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 Child benefit or children's allowance is a social security payment which is distributed to the parents or guardians of children, teenagers and in some cases, young adult (psychology), young adults. A number of countries operate different versions o ...
and support for people with no other source of income. In 1949, unemployment, sickness and maternity benefits were exempted from tax.


Housing

The
New Towns Act 1946 The New Towns Acts were a series of Act of Parliament (UK), Acts of the Parliament of the United Kingdom to found new settlements or to expand substantially existing ones, to establish Development Corporations to deliver them, and to create a Com ...
set up development corporations to construct new towns, while the
Town and Country Planning Act 1947 The Town and Country Planning Act 1947 (10 & 11 Geo. VI c. 51) was an Act of Parliament in the United Kingdom passed by the Labour government led by Clement Attlee. It came into effect on 1 July 1948, and along with the Town and Country Planning ...
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.Pritt, Denis Nowell. ''The Labour Government 1945–51''. The Housing (Scotland) Act 1949 provided grants of 75 per cent (87.5 per cent in the
Highlands and Islands The Highlands and Islands is an area of Scotland broadly covering the Scottish Highlands, plus Orkney, Shetland and Outer Hebrides (Western Isles). The Highlands and Islands are sometimes defined as the area to which the Crofters' Holdings (Sco ...
) 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 1948 local authorities had a duty "to provide emergency temporary accommodation for families which become homeless through no fault of their own". A large housebuilding programme was carried out with the intention of providing millions of people with high-quality homes. The Housing (Financial and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1946 increased Treasury subsidies for the construction of local authority housing in England and Wales.Harmer, Harry. ''The Longman Companion to The Labour Party 1900–1998''. 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 1949 was enacted with the intention of improving the adequacy and duration of financial benefits for married women. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 1950 amended the
Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 The Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 (48 & 49 Vict. c.69), or "An Act to make further provision for the Protection of Women and Girls, the suppression of brothels, and other purposes," was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, the late ...
to bring prostitutes within the law and safeguard them from abduction and abuse. The Criminal Justice Act 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 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 service.Francis, Martin. ''Ideas and Policies Under Labour, 1945–1951''. 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 training centres in Wales, Scotland, and then throughout Great Britain. The
National Health Service Act 1946 The National Health Service Act 1946c 81 came into effect on 5 July 1948 and created the National Health Service in England and Wales thus being the first implementation of the Beveridge Model, Beveridge model. Though the title 'National Health Se ...
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 policies. Comprehensive Development Areas (CDAs), a designation under the
Town and Country Planning Act 1947 The Town and Country Planning Act 1947 (10 & 11 Geo. VI c. 51) was an Act of Parliament in the United Kingdom passed by the Labour government led by Clement Attlee. It came into effect on 1 July 1948, and along with the Town and Country Planning ...
, 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.


Workers' rights

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 significantly improved. 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. The
Fire Services Act 1947 The Fire Services Act 1947 was an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom that reorganised fire services in the United Kingdom. It disbanded the National Fire Service and returned the responsibility for running fire services to local authorities ...
introduced a new pension scheme for fire-fighters, while the 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 1948 and the Merchant Shipping (Safety Convention) Act 1949 were passed to improve conditions for seamen. The Shops Act 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 who 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 trade unions. The
Trade Disputes and Trade Unions Act 1927 The Trade Disputes and Trade Unions Act 1927 (17 and 18 Geo V c 22) was a British Act of Parliament passed in response to the UK General Strike of 1926, General Strike of 1926, introduced by the Attorney General for England and Wales, Douglas Hog ...
was repealed, and the 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 pay. 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 dependants. Under the Coal Industry Nationalisation (Superannuation) Regulations 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 messrooms".


Nationalisation

Attlee's government also carried out their manifesto commitment for
nationalisation Nationalization (nationalisation in British English British English (BrE, en-GB, or BE) is, according to Oxford Dictionaries, " English as used in Great Britain, as distinct from that used elsewhere". More narrowly, it can refer speci ...
of basic industries and public utilities. The
Bank of England The Bank of England is the central bank of the United Kingdom and the model on which most modern central banks have been based. Established in 1694 to act as the Kingdom of England, English Government's banker, and still one of the bankers fo ...
and civil aviation were nationalised in 1946.
Coal mining Coal mining is the process of resource extraction, extracting coal from the ground. Coal is valued for its Energy value of coal, energy content and since the 1880s has been widely used to generate electricity. Steel and cement industries use c ...
, the
railways Rail transport (also known as train transport) is a means of transport that transfers passengers and goods on wheeled vehicles running on rails, which are incorporated in Track (rail transport), tracks. In contrast to road transport, where the ...
, road haulage, canals and Cable and Wireless were nationalised in 1947, and electricity and gas followed in 1948. The
steel industry Steel is an alloy made up of iron with added carbon to improve its strength of materials, strength and fracture toughness, fracture resistance compared to other forms of iron. Many other elements may be present or added. Stainless steels that ...
was nationalised in 1951. By 1951 about 20 per cent of the British economy had been taken into State ownership, 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 was not only profitable, but working conditions for miners had significantly improved as well.Shaw, Eric. ''The Labour Party since 1945''. 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 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 socialist relationships in the workplace.


Agriculture

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 and 1951, 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 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 per cent 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 purposes. In 1946, the National Agricultural Advisory Service was set up to supply agricultural advice and information. The Hill Farming Act 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 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 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 per cent increase in output between 1947 and 1952, while Britain adopted one of the most mechanised and efficient farming industries in the world.


Education

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 HORSA ("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.Jefferys, Kevin. ''The Labour Party since 1945''. Prefabricated classrooms were built and 928 new primary schools were constructed between 1945 and 1950. 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 schools. In 1947 the Arts Council of Great Britain was set up to encourage the arts. The Ministry of Education (United Kingdom), Ministry of Education was established under the 1944 Act, 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 1945–1951. 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 school, comprehensive education for which many socialists had hoped. 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 per cent, from £6.5 billion to £10 billion.


Economy

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 programme 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 sterling, pound fully convertibility, convertible to the US dollar. 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 Plan, 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 Sir Richard Stafford Cripps (24 April 1889 – 21 April 1952) was a British Labour Party (UK), Labour Party politician, barrister, and diplomat. A wealthy lawyer by background, he first entered Parliament at a 1931 Bristol East by-election, by- ...
, into devaluation of the pound. Despite these problems, one of the main achievements of Attlee's government was the maintenance of near
full employment Full employment is a situation in which there is no cyclical or unemployment#Cyclical unemployment, deficient-demand unemployment. Full employment does not entail the disappearance of all unemployment, as other kinds of unemployment, namely Structu ...
. 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 per cent 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 per cent 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 Aneurin "Nye" Bevan Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, PC (; 15 November 1897 – 6 July 1960) was a Welsh people, Welsh Labour Party (UK), Labour Party politician, noted for tenure as Minister of Health in Clement Attlee's go ...
. 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 per cent each year. During that same period, the economy grew by 3 per cent 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 to 1951, 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.


Energy

1947 proved a particularly difficult year for the government; an Winter of 1946–47 in the United Kingdom, exceptionally cold winter that year caused coal mines to freeze and cease production, creating widespread Power outage, power cuts and food shortages. The Ministry of Power (United Kingdom), Minister of Fuel and Power, Manny Shinwell, 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 (politician), John Strachey). The crisis led to an unsuccessful plot by
Hugh Dalton Edward Hugh John Neale Dalton, Baron Dalton, (16 August 1887 – 13 February 1962) was a British Labour Party (UK), Labour Party economist and politician who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1945 to 1947. He shaped Labour Party foreig ...
to replace Attlee as Prime Minister with
Ernest Bevin Ernest Bevin (9 March 1881 – 14 April 1951) was a British statesman, trade union leader, and Labour Party (UK), Labour Party politician. He co-founded and served as General Secretary of the powerful Transport and General Workers' Union in th ...
. Later that year
Stafford Cripps Sir Richard Stafford Cripps (24 April 1889 – 21 April 1952) was a British Labour Party (UK), Labour Party politician, barrister, and diplomat. A wealthy lawyer by background, he first entered Parliament at a 1931 Bristol East by-election, by- ...
tried to persuade Attlee to stand aside for Bevin. These plots petered out after Bevin refused to cooperate. Later that year, Dalton resigned as Chancellor after inadvertently leaking details of the budget to a journalist. He was replaced by Cripps.


Foreign policy


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 The secretary of state for foreign, Commonwealth and development affairs, known as the foreign secretary, is a Secretary of State (United Kingdom), minister of the Crown of the Government of the United Kingdom and head of the Foreign, Commonwe ...
Ernest Bevin Ernest Bevin (9 March 1881 – 14 April 1951) was a British statesman, trade union leader, and Labour Party (UK), Labour Party politician. He co-founded and served as General Secretary of the powerful Transport and General Workers' Union in th ...
. Attlee also attended the later stages of the Potsdam Conference, where he negotiated with President 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 The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a List of former transcontinental countries#Since 1700, transcontinental country that spanned much of Eurasia from 1922 to 1991. A flagship communist state, ...
. Ernest Bevin was a passionate Anti-communism, 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 the 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 to purchase, under the terms of a 1946 UK-USSR Trade agreement, a total of 25 Rolls-Royce Nene jet engines in September 1947 and March 1948. The agreement included an agreement not to use them for military purposes. The price was fixed under a commercial contract; a total of 55 jet engines were sold to the USSR in 1947. However, the Cold War intensified during this period and the Soviets, who at the time were well behind the West in jet technology, Reverse engineering, reverse-engineered the Nene and installed their own version in the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15, MiG-15 interceptor. This was used to good effect against US-UK forces in the subsequent
Korean War , date = {{Ubl, 25 June 1950 – 27 July 1953 (''de facto'')({{Age in years, months, weeks and days, month1=6, day1=25, year1=1950, month2=7, day2=27, year2=1953), 25 June 1950 – present (''de jure'')({{Age in years, months, weeks a ...
, as well as in several later MiG models. 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 The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO, ; french: Organisation du traité de l'Atlantique nord, ), also called the North Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental organization, intergovernmental military alliance between 30 Member sta ...
defence alliance to protect Western Europe against any Soviet expansion. In a crucial contribution to the economic stability of post-war Europe, Attlee's Cabinet was instrumental in promoting the American
Marshall Plan The Marshall Plan (officially the European Recovery Program, ERP) was an American initiative enacted in 1948 to provide foreign aid to Western Europe. The United States transferred over $13 billion (equivalent of about $ in ) in economic re ...
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 (pamphlet), 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 strategy, 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".


Decolonisation

Decolonisation was never a major election issue but Attlee gave the matter a great deal of attention and was the chief leader in beginning the process of Decolonization, decolonisation of the British Empire.


=China and Hong Kong

= In August 1948, the Chinese Communists' victories caused Attlee to begin preparing for a Communist takeover of China. It kept open consulates in Communist-controlled areas and rejected the Chinese Nationalists' requests that British citizens assist in the defence of Shanghai. By December, the government concluded that although British property in China would likely be nationalised, British traders would benefit in the long run from a stable, industrialising Communist China. Retaining Hong Kong was especially important to him; although the Chinese Communists promised to not interfere with its rule, Britain reinforced the Hong Kong Garrison during 1949. When the victorious Chinese Communists government declared on 1 October 1949 that it would exchange diplomats with any country that ended relations with the Chinese Nationalists, Britain became the first western country to formally recognise the People's Republic of China in January 1950. In 1954, a Labour Party delegation including Attlee visited China at the invitation of then Foreign Minister Zhou Enlai. Attlee became the first high-ranking western politician to meet Mao Zedong.


=India and Pakistan

= Attlee orchestrated Partition of India, the granting of independence to India and Pakistan in 1947. Attlee in 1928–1934 had been a member of the Simon Commission, Indian Statutory Commission (otherwise known as 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 Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa had recently been 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 Stanley Baldwin, 1st Earl Baldwin of Bewdley, (3 August 186714 December 1947) was a British Conservative Party (UK), Conservative Party politician who dominated the government of the Interwar Britain, United Kingdom between the world wars, serv ...
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, and Pakistan movement led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah. 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, Quit India" movement of 1942–1945, 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 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 Movement, 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 All-India Muslim League, 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. After becoming Prime Minister in 1945 Attlee originally planned to give India Dominion status in 1948, Attlee suggested in his memoirs that "traditional" colonial rule in Asia was no longer viable. He said that he expected it to meet renewed opposition after the war both by local national movements as well as by the United States. The prime minister's biographer John Bew says that Attlee hoped for a transition to a multilateral world order and a Commonwealth, and that the old British empire "should not be supported beyond its natural lifespan" and instead be ended "on the right note." His exchequer Hugh Dalton meanwhile feared that post-war Britain could no longer afford to garrison its empire. Ultimately the Labour government gave full independence to India and Pakistan 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 1940–1945 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 like 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, Archibald Wavell, 1st Earl Wavell, Field Marshal Wavell, was too imperialistic, too keen on military solutions, and too neglectful of Indian political alignments. The new Viceroy was Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, 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. Attlee also sponsored the peaceful transition to independence in 1948 of Burma (Myanmar) and Sri Lanka, Ceylon (Sri Lanka).


=Palestine

= One of the most urgent problems facing Attlee concerned the future of the Mandatory Palestine, British mandate in Palestine, which had become too troublesome and expensive to handle. British policies in Palestine were perceived by the Zionism, Zionist movement and the Truman administration to be pro-Arab and anti-Jewish, and Britain soon found itself unable to maintain public order in the face of a Jewish insurgency in Mandatory Palestine, Jewish insurgency and a 1947–1948 civil war in Mandatory Palestine, civil war. In response to the increasingly unpopular mandate, Attlee ordered the evacuation of all British military personnel and handed over the issue to the United Nations, a decision which was widely supported by the general public in Britain.


=African colonies

= 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 scheme.


1950 election

The 1950 United Kingdom general election, 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.


1951 election

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 , date = {{Ubl, 25 June 1950 – 27 July 1953 (''de facto'')({{Age in years, months, weeks and days, month1=6, day1=25, year1=1950, month2=7, day2=27, year2=1953), 25 June 1950 – present (''de jure'')({{Age in years, months, weeks a ...
.
Aneurin Bevan Aneurin "Nye" Bevan Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, PC (; 15 November 1897 – 6 July 1960) was a Welsh people, Welsh Labour Party (UK), Labour Party politician, noted for tenure as Minister of Health in Clement Attlee's go ...
resigned to protest against the new charges for "teeth and spectacles" in the 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 The president of the Board of Trade is head of the Board of Trade. This is a committee of the His Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, Privy Council of the United Kingdom, first established as a temporary committee of inquiry in the 17th centu ...
. 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 1951 United Kingdom general election, 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.Thorpe, Andrew. (2001) ''A History of the British Labour Party'', Palgrave; The period was dominated by infighting between the Labour Party's right wing, led by Hugh Gaitskell, and its left, led by
Aneurin Bevan Aneurin "Nye" Bevan Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, PC (; 15 November 1897 – 6 July 1960) was a Welsh people, Welsh Labour Party (UK), Labour Party politician, noted for tenure as Minister of Health in Clement Attlee's go ...
. Many Labour MPs felt that Attlee should have retired following 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 Aneurin "Nye" Bevan Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, PC (; 15 November 1897 – 6 July 1960) was a Welsh people, Welsh Labour Party (UK), Labour Party politician, noted for tenure as Minister of Health in Clement Attlee's go ...
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: Attlee, now aged 72, contested the 1955 United Kingdom general election, 1955 general election against
Anthony Eden Robert Anthony Eden, 1st Earl of Avon, (12 June 1897 – 14 January 1977) was a British Conservative Party (UK), Conservative Party politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1955 until his resignation in 195 ...
, 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 December Hugh Gaitskell was elected as his successor.


Retirement

He subsequently retired from the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, House of Commons and was elevated to the peerage as Earl Attlee and Viscount Prestwood on 16 December 1955, taking his seat in the
House of Lords The House of Lords, also known as the House of Peers, is the Bicameralism, upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Membership is by Life peer, appointment, Hereditary peer, heredity or Lords Spiritual, official function. Like the ...
on 25 January. He believed Eden had been forced into taking a strong stand on the Suez Crisis by his backbenchers. In 1958, Attlee, along with numerous notables, established the Homosexual Law Reform Society: this campaigned for the decriminalisation of homosexual acts in private by consenting adults, a reform that was voted through Parliament nine years later. In May 1961, he travelled to Washington, D.C., to meet with John F. Kennedy, President Kennedy. In 1962, he spoke twice in the House of Lords against the British government's application for the UK to join the European Communities ("Common Market"). In his second speech delivered in November, Attlee claimed that Britain had a separate parliamentary tradition from the Continental European countries that comprised the EC. He also claimed that if Britain became a member, EC rules would prevent the British government from planning the economy and that Britain's traditional policy had been outward-looking rather than Continental. He attended
Winston Churchill Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (30 November 187424 January 1965) was a British statesman, soldier, and writer who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom twice, from 1940 to 1945 Winston Churchill in the Second World War, dur ...
's funeral in January 1965. He was 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, and also to see his old constituency of Walthamstow West (UK Parliament constituency), Walthamstow West fall to the Conservatives in a 1967 Walthamstow West by-election, by-election in September 1967.


Death

Attlee died peacefully in his sleep of pneumonia, at the age of 84 at Westminster Hospital on 8 October 1967. Two thousand people attended his funeral in November, including the then-Prime Minister Harold Wilson and the Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, Duke of Kent, representing Elizabeth II, the Queen. He was cremated and his ashes were buried at Westminster Abbey. Upon his death, the title passed to his son Martin Attlee, 2nd Earl Attlee, Martin Richard Attlee, 2nd Earl Attlee (1927–1991), who defected from Labour to the SDP in 1981. It is now held by Clement Attlee's grandson John Attlee, 3rd Earl Attlee, John Richard Attlee, 3rd Earl Attlee. The third earl (a member of the Conservative Party (UK), Conservative Party) retained his seat in the Lords as one of the hereditary peers to remain under an amendment to Labour's House of Lords Act 1999. Attlee's estate was sworn for probate purposes at a value of £7,295, (equivalent to £ in ) 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 1908."Attlee Henry of 10 Billiter-square London and Westcott Portinscull-road Putney Surrey died 19 November 1908" in Probate Index for 1908 at probatesearch.service.gov.uk, accessed 7 August 2016


Legacy

The quotation 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 A war cabinet is a committee formed by a government in a time of war to efficiently and effectively conduct that war. It is usually a subset of the full executive cabinet of ministers, although it is quite common for a war cabinet to have senior ...
. Attlee's modesty and quiet manner hid a great deal that has only come to light with historical reappraisal. Attlee himself is said to have responded to critics with a limerick (poetry), limerick: "There were few who thought him a starter, Many who thought themselves smarter. But he ended PM, CH and OM, an Earl and a Knight of the Garter". The journalist and broadcaster Anthony Howard (journalist), Anthony Howard called him "the greatest Prime Minister of the 20th century". 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 life from her beginnings in Grantham to her victory at the 1979 United Kingdom general election, 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 no show". Attlee's government presided over the successful transition from a War economy, wartime economy to peacetime, tackling problems of demobilisation, shortages of foreign currency, and adverse deficits in trade balances and Government spending, government expenditure. Further domestic policies that he brought about included the creation of the
National Health Service The National Health Service (NHS) is the umbrella term for the publicly funded health care, publicly funded healthcare systems of the United Kingdom (UK). Since 1948, they have been funded out of general taxation. There are three systems which ...
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 Egalitarianism, egalitarian society during their time in office with reductions in poverty and a rise in the general economic security of the population. In foreign affairs, he did much to assist with the post-war economic recovery of Europe. He proved a loyal ally of the US at the onset of the Cold War. Due to his style of leadership, it was not he, but
Ernest Bevin Ernest Bevin (9 March 1881 – 14 April 1951) was a British statesman, trade union leader, and Labour Party (UK), Labour Party politician. He co-founded and served as General Secretary of the powerful Transport and General Workers' Union in th ...
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 [nuclear weapons] and it's got to have a bloody Union Jack on it". The first operational Operation Hurricane, British nuclear 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 Atomic Energy Act of 1946, 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 Socialism, 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 Commonwealth of Nations, British Commonwealth. His greatest achievement, surpassing many of these, was perhaps the establishment of a Post-war consensus, 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, Historical rankings of prime ministers of the United Kingdom, he was voted the most successful British Prime Minister of the 20th century by a poll of 139 academics organised by Ipsos MORI. A blue plaque unveiled in 1979 commemorates Attlee at 17 Monkhams Avenue, in Woodford Green in the London Borough of Redbridge, London borough of Redbridge. Attlee was elected a List of fellows of the Royal Society elected in 1947, Fellow of the Royal Society in 1947. Attlee was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of Queen Mary College on 15 December 1948. In the 1960s a new suburb near Curepipe in British Mauritius was given the name ''Cité Atlee'' in his honour.


Statues of Clement Attlee

On 30 November 1988, a bronze statue of Clement Attlee was unveiled by Harold Wilson (the next Labour Party (UK), Labour
Prime Minister A prime minister, premier or chief of cabinet is the head of the Cabinet (government), cabinet and the leader of the Minister (government), ministers in the Executive (government), executive branch of government, often in a parliamentary syst ...
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; he 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. The restored statue was unveiled by Peter Mandelson in April 2011, in its new position less than a mile away at the Queen Mary University of London's Mile End campus. There is also a statue of Clement Attlee in the Houses of Parliament that was erected, instead of a bust, by parliamentary vote in 1979. The sculptor was Ivor Roberts-Jones.


Honours


Arms


Religious views

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 don't know".


Cultural depictions


Major legislation enacted during the Attlee government

* Housing (Financial and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1946 * Coal Industry Nationalisation Act 1946 * Furnished Houses (Rent Control) Act 1946 *
National Health Service Act 1946 The National Health Service Act 1946c 81 came into effect on 5 July 1948 and created the National Health Service in England and Wales thus being the first implementation of the Beveridge Model, Beveridge model. Though the title 'National Health Se ...
* National Insurance Act 1946 * National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act 1946 *
New Towns Act 1946 The New Towns Acts were a series of Act of Parliament (UK), Acts of the Parliament of the United Kingdom to found new settlements or to expand substantially existing ones, to establish Development Corporations to deliver them, and to create a Com ...
* 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 The Town and Country Planning Act 1947 (10 & 11 Geo. VI c. 51) was an Act of Parliament in the United Kingdom passed by the Labour government led by Clement Attlee. It came into effect on 1 July 1948, and along with the Town and Country Planning ...
* 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 (England, Wales and Northern Ireland), 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


See also

*Ethical socialism *Information Research Department *Malayan Emergency *Briggs Plan *New village


Notes


References


Sources

* * * * * * * * *


Bibliography

* 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 Socialism'' (1935) * ''The Labour Party in Perspective'' (1937) * ''Collective Security Under the United Nations'' (1958) * ''Empire into Commonwealth'' (1961)


Further reading

Biographical * 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 University Press, 2017, U.S. edition) * Burridge, Trevor. ''Clement Attlee: A Political Biography'' (1985), scholarly * Cohen, David. ''Churchill & Attlee: The Unlikely Allies who Won the War'' (Biteback Publishing, 2018), popular * 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, 2010). * Whiting, R. C. "Attlee, Clement Richard, first Earl Attlee (1883–1967)", ''Oxford Dictionary of National Biography'', 2004; online edn, Jan 201
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); * Morgan, Kenneth O. ''Labour people: Leaders and Lieutenants, Hardie to Kinnock'' (1987) Scholarly studies * Addison, Paul. ''No Turning Back: The Peaceful Revolutions of Post-War Britain'' (2011
excerpt and text search
* , 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 University Press, 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 JSTOR
* * Jackson, Ben. "Citizen and Subject: Clement Attlee’s Socialism", ''History Workshop Journal'' (2018). Vol. 86 pp 291–298
online
* Jeffreys, Kevin. "The Attlee Years, 1935–1955", in Brivati, Brian, and Heffernan, Richard, eds., ''The Labour Party: A Centenary History'', Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2000. 68–86. * Kynaston, David. ''Austerity Britain, 1945–1951'' (2008). * Mioni, Michele. "The Attlee government and welfare state reforms in post-war Italian Socialism (1945–51): Between universalism and class policies", ''Labor History'', 57#2 (2016): 277–297. DOI:10.1080/0023656X.2015.1116811 * 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) · * Martin Pugh (author), Pugh, Martin. ''Speak for Britain!: A New History of the Labour Party'' (2011
excerpt and text search
* * 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


External links

*
Clement Attlee – Thanksgiving Speech 1950 – UK Parliament Living Heritage

More about Clement Attlee
on the 10 Downing Street, Downing Street website. * * * *
Annotated bibliography for Clement Attlee from the Alsos Digital Library for Nuclear Issues
* *
Drawing of Clement Attlee in the UK Parliamentary Collections
{{DEFAULTSORT:Attlee, Clement Clement Attlee, 1883 births 1967 deaths 20th-century English politicians 20th-century prime ministers of the United Kingdom Academics of Ruskin College Academics of the London School of Economics Alumni of University College, Oxford Alumni of the Inns of Court School of Law Association footballers not categorized by position British Army personnel of World War I British Empire in World War II British Secretaries of State for Dominion Affairs British Secretaries of State British socialists British Zionists British people of World War II British social democrats Burials at Westminster Abbey Chancellors of the Duchy of Lancaster Deaths from pneumonia in England Deputy Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom Earls Attlee, Clement English agnostics English footballers Fellows of the Royal Society Fleet Town F.C. players Foreign Office personnel of World War II Knights of the Garter Labour Party (UK) MPs for English constituencies Labour Party (UK) hereditary peers Labour Party prime ministers of the United Kingdom Leaders of the Labour Party (UK) Leaders of the Opposition (United Kingdom) Lord Presidents of the Council Lords Privy Seal Mayors of places in Greater London Members of Stepney Metropolitan Borough Council Members of the Fabian Society Members of the Order of Merit Members of the Order of the Companions of Honour Members of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom Ministers in the Attlee governments, 1945–1951 Ministers in the Churchill wartime government, 1940–1945 National Council for Civil Liberties people People educated at Haileybury and Imperial Service College People from Putney People of the Cold War Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom South Lancashire Regiment officers UK MPs 1922–1923 UK MPs 1923–1924 UK MPs 1924–1929 UK MPs 1929–1931 UK MPs 1931–1935 UK MPs 1935–1945 UK MPs 1945–1950 UK MPs 1950–1951 UK MPs 1951–1955 UK MPs 1955–1959 UK MPs who were granted peerages United Kingdom Postmasters General United Kingdom home front during World War II World War II political leaders Earls created by Elizabeth II Members of the Inner Temple British Eurosceptics