Clement Attlee

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Clement Attlee was born in Putney in 1883. Educated at Haileybury and University College, Oxford he became a barrister in 1906. Attlee developed an interest in social problems while doing voluntary work at a boy's club in Stepney. Converted to socialism by reading the works of John Ruskin and William Morris, in 1913 Attlee became a tutor at the London School of Economics.

In 1914 Attlee joined the British Army and served in Gallipoli and Mesopotamia , where he was badly wounded at El Hanna. After recovering back in England, Attlee was sent to France in 1918 and served on the Western Front for the last few months of the war. By the end of the First World War Attlee reached the rank of major.

After the war Attlee returned to teaching at the London School of Economics. Attlee, a member of the Labour Party, became involved in local politics and in 1919 was elected Mayor of Stepney.

In the 1922 General Election he was elected Labour MP for Limehouse in London. Ramsay MacDonald, the leader of the party in the House of Commons, recruited Attlee as his parliamentary secretary (1922-24). In the 1924 Labour Government Attlee was appointed as Under Secretary of State for War.

After the Labour Party victory in the 1929 General Election, MacDonald appointed Attlee as postmaster-general. However, like most ministers, Attlee refused to serve in the National Government formed by MacDonald in 1931. Attlee was one of the few Labour MPs to win his seat in the 1931 General Election and became deputy leader of the party under George Lansbury.

When Lansbury retired in 1935 Attlee became the new leader of the Labour Party. During the Spanish Civil War he supported the British volunteers fighting against General Francisco Franco and visited the International Brigades on the front-line in December 1937.

In 1940 Attlee joined the coalition government headed by Winston Churchill. He was virtually deputy Prime Minister although this post did not formally become his until 1942. It was afterwards claimed that during the Second World War Attlee worked as a restraining influence on some of Churchill's more wilder schemes.

In the 1945 General Election Attlee lead the Labour Party to its largest victory at the polls. During his six years in office he carried through a vigorous programme of reform. The Bank of England, the coal mines, civil aviation, cable and wireless services, gas, electricity, railways, road transport and steel were nationalized. The National Health Service was introduced and independence was granted to India (1947) and Burma.

After being narrowly defeated in the 1951 General Election, Attlee led the Labour Party until resigning in 1955. He was granted a peerage and was active in the House of Lords until his death in 1967.