It was 75 years ago today that Clement Attlee spent his first full day in office as the first-ever Prime Minister of a majority Labour Government.

The previous day the results of the General Election of July 5, 1945, were announced, the delay between voting and counting caused by the fact that so many British service personnel were abroad.

The result shocked the world. Britain’s wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill was expected to win because of his huge personal popularity, but the Conservatives were mistrusted because of their handling of the various crises of the 1930s, and Labour were generally seen as the party that could build a new Britain with progressive policies such as the creation of the National Health Service and Welfare State as promised by the wartime Beveridge Report.


Churchill remained a wartime leader after Germany was finally defeated in early May, and he personally saw to it alongside the USSR’s generalissimo Joseph Stalin and the US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt that Japan could only surrender on terms of unconditional surrender.

Roosevelt’s successor Harry S Truman came to the Potsdam Conference in July and the Big Three reaffirmed what became the Potsdam Declaration – only unconditional surrender by Japan was acceptable.

Attlee had been the quiet man in the wartime national government, serving as Deputy Prime Minister to Winston Churchill, but his reputation for firm government with a humane touch kept on building, while his absolute determination to change British politics and society was a winning message to a population which wanted transformation.

The victory of Dr Robert McIntyre, who became the first SNP MP in the Motherwell by-election on April 12, 1945, showed the mood for change across the countries of the UK, and quietly but persuasively, Attlee captured that mood and led the Labour Party to a stunning landslide victory, winning 393 seats to the Conservative’s 213, capturing 48% of the public vote, and giving them an overall majority of 159.

It was a total landslide, and on July 26, Churchill conceded defeat and tendered his resignation to King George VI who had become not just a friend but a close ally during the war. Churchill graciously expressed his “profound gratitude for the unflinching, unswerving support” of the British people during the war.

Attlee, for his part, said: “We are facing a new era and I believe that the voting at this election has shown that the people of Britain are facing that new era with the same courage as they faced the long years of war.”

The following day, 75 years ago today, he formed his first government which consisted of considerable talents all committed to the Labour policies.Practically his first choice was Ernest Bevin as Foreign Secretary, and other ministers were Labour giants such as Deputy PM Herbert Morrison, Aneurin ‘Nye’ Bevan as Minister for Health, Hugh Dalton as Chancellor and James Chuter-Ede as Home Secretary.


Let’S see what the official biography by the Westminster Government says: “His period as Prime Minister was one of intense activity. The notoriously blunt, relatively quiet man was nevertheless very skilled at quick, decisive action. His leadership style was apparently collective, but once 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, part of the Welfare State that sought to provide ‘cradle to the grave’ care for British citizens.

“On top of this, many of Britain’s largest industries – such as coal mining, electricity and the railways – were brought under state control, despite recurring currency crises and shortages of food and resources so severe that rationing had to be maintained long after the war.

“Attlee’s time as Prime Minister also saw intense foreign policy activity. He placed great faith in Ernest Bevin, his Foreign Secretary, and together they oversaw 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.”

Not bad, not bad at all, Clement.


Famously devoid of charisma, Attlee really did say to voters to look at his record rather than his speechifying, though some of his remarks and thoughts resound to the present day. For example: “No social system will bring us happiness, health and prosperity unless it is inspired by something greater than materialism.”

Churchill famously quipped that “an empty taxi drew up and Clement Attlee got out”. He lived to regret that remark and relied heavily on Attlee in Government.

Let’s go back to the official government view as stated on the gov.uk website: “More than one survey of academics has voted Attlee the most successful British Prime Minister of all time.” By any standards he was the greatest Labour PM of them all, and modern Labour are teeny-weenies compared to the giants of 1945.

Think of Richard Leonard and if you are Labour, just weep for the party you once were.