Attlee, Prime Minister Clement, 1883-1967

Leader of the Labour Party in parliament at the outbreak of the war, Attlee became Deputy Prime Minister to CHURCHILL on the formation of the coalition government in May 1940. The two men were temperamental as well as political opposites. Attlee being dry, unemotional and self-effacing almost to the point of disappearance. In education and background, however, they were closer than their party affiliations would have suggested. Attlee being a public school socialist who had been drawn into the Labour Party through his interest in social work in London’s East End before World War I (in which he like Churchill, served as an infantry officer). Thus, although never friends they were able to find much common ground in the direction of the war and worked together without disharmony. A superb party manager, Attlee insured the complete support of the Labour minority for Churchill’s policies and, with BEVIN, the co-operation of the trade unions in the untroubled production of war material. In the general election of July 1945 he was swept to the Prime Ministership by the landslide victory of his party and replaced Churchill as the British representative at the Potsdam Conference.

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