Clement Attlee

Clement Attlee lived at 17 Monkhams Ave Woodford whilst he was the MP during the 1920s and 1930s

Born to a middle-class family in London, Clement Attlee studied at Oxford University, and then trained as a lawyer. He went on to manage Haileybury House, a charitable youth organisation in Limehouse, east London. This experience had a profound impact on Attlee, whose political views were shaped by the poverty he witnessed in London’s East End.  In 1908, he joined the Independent Labour Party.    At the beginning of the First World War, he applied for a Commission and served during WW1 as a Captain. His reputation as an effective, efficient leader gained him promotion to the rank of Major, a title that remained with him throughout his life .

On returning from the war, Attlee moved into politics, becoming Mayor of Stepney in 1919 and MP for Limehouse in 1922. He continued to rise within the Labour Party, and following the resignation of George Lansbury was elected  leader in 1935. During the Second World War, Churchill approached Attlee and suggested that the Conservatives and Labour parties work in coalition during the war years. Clement Attlee was appointed Deputy Prime Minister from 1942 to 1945. When a general election was called in 1945,  Clement Attlee led the Labour Party to a surprise landslide victory, winning 393 seats to the Conservative’s 213, and 48% of the public vote.

His period as Prime Minister was one of intense activity. This no-nonsense, relatively quiet man was very skilled at quick decision making. His leadership style was apparently collective, (this meant everyone taking responsibility for the success of the Labour party as a whole) but once Clement Attlee as the Prime Minister had let his Cabinet voice their opinions, he would quickly make decisions with military precision. As a result, practically all of Labour’s manifesto pledges were implemented under Attlee. Despite the Second World War leaving Britain effectively bankrupt, he managed the creation of the National Health Service, the section of the Welfare State that provide ‘cradle to the grave’ care for British citizens. Further, many of Britain’s largest industries – such as coal mining, electricity and the railways – were brought under state control, despite recurring currency crisis, shortages of food and resources that were so severe that rationing had to be maintained long after the war.

Clement Attlee’s time as Prime Minister  saw intense foreign policy activity. He placed great faith in Ernest Bevin, his Foreign Secretary, and together they supervised Indian independence, American loans and ‘Marshall Aid’ for the rebuilding of Britain and Western Europe, the Berlin airlift and Britain’s commitment to the United Nations.

In the 1950 General Election Labour lost its majority, and by the time of its defeat in the general election of 1951, the Labour government had worked itself to near exhaustion. However Attlee’s reforms during that short 5 year period have provided much of the benefits that we have today in respect of obtaining medical assistance, care in society, pensions, reasonable pay and health and safety in the workplace and gender equality.  Clement Attlee,  continued to lead the Labour party until 1955, and died in 1967, aged 84.

More than one survey of academics has voted Attlee the most successful British Prime Minister of all time.

Did you know...
  1. Clement Attlee was born to a middle-class family in London, he studied at Oxford University, and then began training as a lawyer but gave this up to become a social worker in Limehouse, East London, dealing with children from very poor backgrounds, some who did have any food to eat or even shoes to wear really made Clement Attlee think and his political opinions were shaped by the poverty he witnessed in London’s East End.
  2. He joined the Independent Labour Party in 1908. At the beginning of the WW1 in 1914 he served as a Captain in the army. He was really good at his job and he got promoted to Major really quickly. He didn’t tell people all about his adventures as he was not boastful. After the War he returned to Politics and in 1919 he became the MP for Stepney in London.
  3. In the early 1920s just after he got married he moved to 17 Monkhams Avenue, in Woodford where he lived for over 12 years. He lived in Woodford at the same time that Churchill was the MP for the area.
  4. He was a quiet sort of person but very deep thinking he did not like a lot of fuss and bother and was uncomfortable in front of cameras. With hard work, a straight forward attitude, attention to detail and honesty he slowly progressed until he was elected as Leader of the Labour party in 1935. People thought that because he was a quiet person they could try and bully him. In fact his quietness made people underestimate him. Clement Attlee was quietly confident and though people with much bigger personalities tried to get him out of his job they couldn’t because he was too good at what he did.
  5. In 1942 he agreed that the Labour Party would join a coalition with Winston Churchill’s Tory party during WW2 and he became Deputy Prime minster. He was very successful in this position. At the end of the War there was another election and he was voted in as Prime Minister.
  6. He was only in power for 5 years but in that 5 years with his very strong views on looking after all people in the UK both the rich and the poor he made some amazing changes to the country.
  7. He created the National Health Service, which made healthcare free to everyone in the UK. Before this if you did not have any money or insurance you could not get any help from the doctors or hospital if you were ill.
  8. He also created social security so that all people who worked had to pay a weekly amount from their wages and in return they would be get money from the government if for some reason i.e. they had had an accident work, they could not work.
  9. He created the Children’s Act to try to make sure that there were services run by the government which gave help to deprived, poor and orphaned children.
  10. He made sure that nurseries and childminders had to have proper checks to make sure that they were looking after the children in their care properly.
  11. He created National Parks and made the countryside open to people so they could get out of cities and go to beautiful places.
  12. When women got married in the 1940s they would normally have to give up work and he created a law saying they could continue to work.
  13. Clement Attlee also helped with the beginning of decolonization. Britain was in charge and governed many countries in Asia and Africa. He helped those countries to become independent and having their own governments and the first country he helped to become independent was India.