Clement Attlee

From Academic Kids

The Rt Hon. Clement Attlee
Period in office: 27 July 1945 - 26 Oct 1951
PM predecessor: Winston Churchill
PM successor: Winston Churchill
Date of birth: January 3, 1883
Place of birth: Putney, London
Political party: Labour
Retirement honour: Earldom of Attlee

Clement Richard Attlee, 1st Earl Attlee, KG, OM, CH (January 3, 1883October 8, 1967) was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1945 to 1951. Despite his natural modesty and laconic style of speaking, he won a landslide election victory over Winston Churchill immediately after Churchill had led Britain through World War II. He was the first Labour Prime Minister to serve for a full Parliamentary term, and the first to have a majority in Parliament. The government he led put in place the post-war consensus, which enabled the nationalisation of major industries and public utilities to create a system of administration that was by and large accepted by both parties until Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister. In 2004 he was voted as the most effective British Prime Minister in the 20th century in a poll of political academics organised by MORI.



Born in Putney in London into a middle-class family, and educated at Haileybury and University College, Oxford, Attlee trained as a lawyer. He turned to socialism after working with slum children in the East End of London. Good works for the poor did not attract him; he did not want there to be any poor. He left the Fabian Society and joined the Independent Labour Party in 1908. Attlee became a lecturer at the London School of Economics in 1913, but enlisted promptly for World War I.

Having reached Major, and been seriously wounded, he became mayor of the London borough of Stepney in 1919 and a Labour MP for the Limehouse division of Stepney in 1922. He was Ramsay MacDonald's parliamentary private secretary for the brief 1922 parliament.

Attlee served in the first two Labour governments, as under-secretary of state for war in 1924 with Ramsay MacDonald, then as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and later Postmaster General in the 1929 to 1931 MacDonald government. He actively supported the General Strike. In 1928 he reluctantly joined the Simon Commission, a royal commission on India. As a result of the time he had to devote to this, he was not initially offered a ministerial post in the Second Labour Government.

In 1930, Labour MP Oswald Mosley attacked his own government favouring Keynesian action against unemployment, and lost. Attlee got Mosley's old job as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. He was Postmaster General in 1931, when most of the party's leaders lost their seats; this helped him win the deputy leadership under George Lansbury. Attlee, and Labour, opposed appeasement. Additionally, he had previously opposed (in concert with the Liberal Party) rearmament, for which Churchill blamed him in his monumental work A Gathering Storm (among others, including Lansbury and MacDonald). When Lansbury resigned the leadership in 1935, Attlee was appointed as an interim leader until after the general election that year. In the post election leadership contest Attlee was elected, beating both Herbert Morrison and Arthur Greenwood, and remained leader of the party until 1955 - to date, Labour's longest-serving party leader.

In the World War II coalition government, three interconnected committees ran the war: Churchill chaired the war cabinet and the defence committee. Attlee was his regular deputy in committee and in parliament, and chaired the lord president's committee, which ran the civil side of the war. Only he and Churchill remained in the war cabinet throughout. Attlee was Lord Privy Seal (1940-1942), Deputy Prime Minister (1942), Dominions Secretary (1942-1943), and Lord President of the Council (1943-1945).

The landslide 1945 Election returned Labour to power and Attlee became prime minister. The party had clear aims. Several controversal policies were enacted, including the nationalisation of utilities and the long-distance transport system and the creation of the modern Welfare State. India became independent, and Britain's role in Palestine ended. Attlee's first Health Secretary, Aneurin Bevan, fought against general medical disapproval, to create the British National Health Service that still survives today and is often just as controversial as then.

The Labour Party was returned to power in the general election of 1950. The large reduction that it suffered in its parliamentary majority was mostly due to the vagaries of the first past the post voting system, plus a degree of Conservative opposition recovering support at the expense of the Liberal Party.

Labour lost the General Election of 1951 despite polling more votes than in the 1945 election. Labour had also been internally weakened by splits exacerbated by strain of financing British involvement in the Korean War. Attlee led the party in opposition until 1955, when he retired from the commons and was elevated to the peerage to take his seat in the House of Lords as Earl Attlee and Viscount Prestwood on 16 December 1955. He died in 1967 and the title passed to his son Martin Richard Attlee, 2nd Earl Attlee (1927 - 1991). The title is now held by Clement Attlee's grandson John Richard Attlee, 3rd Earl Attlee. The third earl (a member of the Conservative Party) retained his seat in the Lords as one of the few hereditary peers elected to the House under an amendment to the 1999 House of Lords Act.

Attlee's Cabinet 1945-1950

Missing image
Arms of Clement Attlee


Attlee's Cabinet 1950-1951

February 1950: A substantial reshuffle takes place following the General Election:


  • October 1950: Hugh Gaitskell succeeds Sir Stafford Cripps as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
  • January 1951: Aneurin Bevan succeeds George Isaacs as Minister of Labour and National Service. Bevan's successor as Minister of Health is not in the cabinet. Hugh Dalton's post is renamed Minister of Local Government and Planning.
  • March 1951: Herbert Morrison succeeds Ernest Bevin as Foreign Secretary. Lord Addison succeeds Morrison as Lord President. Bevin succeeds Addison as Lord Privy Seal. James Chuter Ede succeeds Morrison as Leader of the House of Commons whilst remaining Home Secretary.
  • April 1951: Richard Stokes succeeds Ernest Bevin as Lord Privy Seal. Alf Robens succeeds Aneurin Bevan (resigned) as Minister of Labour and National Service. Sir Hartley Shawcross succeeds Harold Wilson (resigned) as President of the Board of Trade.

Preceded by:
Sir Oswald Mosley
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Succeeded by:
The Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
Preceded by:
Hastings Lees-Smith
Postmaster General
Succeeded by:
Sir William Ormsby-Gore
Preceded by:
George Lansbury
Leader of the British Labour Party
Succeeded by:
Hugh Gaitskell
Preceded by:
Sir Kingsley Wood
Lord Privy Seal
Succeeded by:
Sir Stafford Cripps
Preceded by:
New Office
Deputy Prime Minster
Succeeded by:
Herbert Stanley Morrison
Preceded by:
Viscount Cranborne
Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs
Succeeded by:
Viscount Cranborne
Preceded by:
Sir John Anderson
Lord President of the Council
Succeeded by:
The Lord Woolton

Template:Succession box one to two Template:End box

Preceded by:
New Creation
Earl Attlee
Succeeded by:
Martin Attlee

Template:End boxde:Clement Attlee eo:Clement ATTLEE fr:Clement Attlee gl:Clement Attlee ja:クレメント・アトリー nl:Clement Attlee pl:Clement Attlee ro:Clement Attlee sl:Clement Attlee fi:Clement Attlee sv:Clement Attlee zh:克莱门特·艾德礼


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