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Attlee, Clement Richard (1883-1967)


Photograph of Clement Attlee in 1957

Michiganensian (1957). Via Wikipedia

Attlee succeeded Churchill as Prime Minister of Britain following the general elections of 1945, when the Labour Party took control of Parliament from the Conservative Party. This shift in the electorate was prompted largely by the Beveridge Report, which recommended a full welfare state as the goal of a postwar government. Though even the Conservatives endorsed the report, Labour was seen as the party most likely to enthusiastically pursue its recommendations.

Attlee himself had served as Deputy Prime Minister under Churchill and had loyally supported the latter's war policy. His war policies were largely indistinguishable from those of his predecessor, though Attlee did not have the same prestige and level of influence over the military that Churchill had accumulated.

Attlee inherited a government on the verge of bankruptcy from the expenses of the war, and an empire well on the way to dissolution. Wartime rationing was not discontinued until 1948. Though Attlee pursued policies that were clearly socialist, he feared the Soviet Union and was instrumental in helping to found NATO.

The Conservatives soundly defeated Labour in 1951 and Attlee was replaced as Prime Minister by Churchill. He retired from politics in 1955, accepting a peerage and a seat in the House of Lords. He died in 1967.

There are numerous apocryphal quotes disparaging Attlee that are attributed to Churchill. It seems likely that few if any were authentic; the two men had worked well together during the war years, and Churchill was notably magnanimous towards his colleagues in his memoirs.


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