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.