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Attlee, Clement

Clement Richard Attlee

b. 3 Jan 1883, London
d. 8 Oct 1967, London

Title: Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury
Term: 26 Jul 1945 - 26 Oct 1951
Chronology: 26 Jul 1945, invited to form an Administration and accepted the offer to hold the post of Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury, audience of the King, Buckingham Palace, London [1][2]
28 Jul 1945, took the oath of office as First Lord of the Treasury before the King in Council, Buckingham Palace, London [3]
  26 Oct 1951, tendered resignation as Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury (accepted), audience of the King, Buckingham Palace, London [4]
Names/titles: Viscount Prestwood, of Walthamstow in the County of Essex, and Earl Attlee (from 16 Dec 1955) [5]
Biography:
Born into a conservatively minded middle-class family, the seventh child of a successful London solicitor; attended preparatory school Northaw Place, near Potters Bar (1892-1896), and Haileybury College, Hertfordshire (1896-1901); was educated at University College, Oxford (1901-1904), receiving a degree in modern history; was called to the bar by the Inner Temple (1906) and joined the Independent Labour Party (1908); worked as manager of Haileybury College Boys' Club, Stepney (1907-1910) and secretary of Toynbee Hall, Whitechapel (1910-1913); took a job teaching at the London School of Economics (1913-1914); volunteered for the military service during World War I; was commissioned lieutenant (temporary, 1914); promoted to captain (temporary, 1915), major (temporary, 1917); served in Gallipoli and Mesopotamia; was severely wounded at El Hanna; served as Mayor of Stepney (1919-1920), a working-class area in East London; elected to Parliament as Labour MP for Limehouse (1922-1950); briefly served as parliamentary private secretary for Ramsay MacDonald (1922); served as Under-Secretary of State for War (23 Jan 1924 - 11 Nov 1924); was a member of the Simon Commission, created to examine the possibility of granting self-rule to India (1927); joined the second government of MacDonald as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (24 May 1930 - 20 Mar 1931); moved to the position of Postmaster General (4 Mar 1931 - 4 Sep 1931); sworn in as a member of the UK Privy Council (6 Jun 1935); in the opposition he served as Vice-Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party (3 Nov 1931 - 26 Nov 1935; acting chairman 8 Oct 1935 - 26 Nov 1935); elected Chairman (26 Nov 1935 - 22 May 1940) and Leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party (26 Nov 1935 - 7 Dec 1955); his strong patriotism ensured that his party joined the National Government of Winston Spencer-Churchill in 1940; served in the War Cabinet throughout the war, taking responsibility for many domestic matters; assumed the office of Lord Privy Seal (12 May 1940 - 23 Feb 1942); chaired the War Cabinet during Churchill's frequent absences acting as Deputy Prime Minister (from 19 Feb 1942) and was appointed Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs (23 Feb 1942 - 28 Sep 1943); played leading role in preparation for social reform after the war; served as Lord President of the Council (28 Sep 1943 - 28 May 1945); was excluded from Churchill's caretaker government because the Labour Party executives refused to accept the idea of a Coalition government in 1945; after Labour's sweeping election victory (5 Jul 1945: Government 413 [Labour 393, Liberal 12, Independent Liberal Party 3, Nationalist Party 2, Communist 2, Common Wealth 1], Opposition 213 [Conservative 189, Liberal National 13, Ulster Unionist 9, National 2], independents 14), he was appointed Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury (26 Jul 1945 - 26 Oct 1951) and also took the office of Minister of Defence (27 Jul 1945 - 20 Dec 1946); assumed the office during the Potsdam Conference replacing Churchill; oversaw the national recovery and introduced many far-reaching socialist measures, from nationalizing railways and the coal industry, to reforming education, health and housing, many of which became accepted practice, and led to further development; during the Attlee administration, UK granted independence to India, Ceylon and Burma within the Commonwealth, and joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949; in the General Election of 1950 (23 Feb 1950: Labour 315, Conservative 298, Liberal 9, Nationalist Party 2, others 1), he was returned to Parliament as MP for Walthamstow West (1950-1955); after the election, he formed his second administration, enjoying a far smaller majority; faced a crisis when two ministers, Aneurin Bevan and Harold Wilson, resigned (April 1951) in protest against introducing the charges for some National Health Service facilities; resigned the post of Prime Minister after the General Election of 1951 resulted in Labour defeat (25 Oct 1951: Conservative including National Liberal 321, Labour 295, Liberal 6, others 3); remained Leader of the Opposition (1951-1955) until he stepped down after 20 years as Leader of the Labour Party; was elevated to the peerage and took seat in the House of Lords.
Biographical sources: "Attlee", by Kenneth Harris (London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1982); "Clement Attlee: A Political Biography", by Trevor Burridge (London: Cape, 1985); The Times, No. 30,709, London, Friday, January 5, 1883, p. 1 (birth notice); The Times, No. 57,067, Monday October 9 1967, pp. 1, 9, 11 (obituary).

[1] The Times, No. 50,205, Late London Edition, London Friday July 27 1945, p. 6: "Court Circular - BUCKINGHAM PALACE, July 26 <...> The King subsequently received in audience the Right Hon. C. R. Attlee, and requested him to form a new Administration. The Right Hon. C. R. Attlee accepted His Majesty's offer and kissed hands upon his appointment as Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury."
[2] Appointment as Lord Commissioner of the Treasury by Letters Patent under the Great Seal dated 28 Jul 1945, announced by the Crown Office 10 Aug 1945, and gazetted 14 Aug 1945 (The London Gazette, No. 37222, Tuesday, 14 August, 1945, p. 4135).
[3] The Times, No. 50,207, Late London Edition, London Monday July 30 1945, p. 7: "Court Circular - BUCKINGHAM PALACE, July 28 <...> The King held a Council at 10.30 o'clock. <...> The Right Hon. C. R. Attlee was sworn First Lord of the Treasury."
[4] The Times, No. 52,143, Late London Edition, London Saturday October 27 1951, p. 8: "Court Circular - BUCKINGHAM PALACE, Oct. 26 The Right Hon. C. R. Attlee had an audience of The King this evening and tendered his resignation as Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury, which His Majesty was graciously pleased to accept."
[5] The London Gazette, No. 40656, Friday, 16 December, 1955, p. 7071.
Image: photograph, 1950.

This page was last updated on: 14 Mar 2010 03:55:21

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