Clement Richard Attlee (January 3, 1883 – October 8, 1967) was the post-war British Prime Minister who oversaw the implementation of the sweeping reforms that were to transform Britain. Between July 26, 1945 and October 26, 1951, his energies brought about social change that continues to shape the nation to this day. The son of a London solicitor, he attended a private school, followed by Oxford University. However, the volunteer work he carried out in London’s East End for Haileybury House, a charitable club for working-class boys in Stepney, exposed him to poverty and his political views shifted leftwards. In 1908 the joined the Independent Labour Party, and after serving in the First World War returned to politics becoming Mayor of Stepney then, in 1922, MP for Limehouse in Stepney. After narrowly surviving Labour’s heavy losses in the 1930s polls he became leader of the party in 1935 and when war broke out in 1939 he was made Deputy Prime Minister under the Coalition Government. Following the Second World War Labour swept to power, crushing Winston Churchill’s Conservatives, as voters looked to the promises of the future not the victories of the past. Attlee, often dismissed as being mild-mannered, proved anything but when in power. Under him there was to be no return to the Edwardian social system. Health care and the creation of the NHS are perhaps the legacy most remembered today. But moreover the principle that the state would care for its people from the cradle to the grave became the mantra with the introduction of National Insurance. Large scale house building was introduced, nationalisation of many vital industries came into force, the education system was overhauled. On the world stage Empire began to be dismantled and scientists working on Britain’s own version of the Atomic bomb independent of the United States. Despite all this, a freezing winter which forced the imposition of even more rationing than in wartime and internal differences within the Government, left an exhausted Labour Party marching to the polls in 1950. They won with a massively reduced majority but in October 1951 Attlee called a snap election and Labour was returned to the opposition benches. After losing the 1955 general election he retired from frontline politics.
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