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A writer, blogger, historian, and web designer born in New York, educated in Argentina, Scotland, and South Africa, and now based in London. read more

At Chartwell one weekend in Churchill’s presence, Sir John Rodgers made the mistake of referring to Clement Attlee, wartime deputy prime minister and postwar prime minister, as “silly old Attlee”. Churchill was having none of it.

“Mr Attlee is a great patriot,” he said. “Don’t you dare call him ‘silly old Attlee’ at Chartwell or you won’t be invited again.”

The leader of the Conservative party and the leader of the Labour party were obvious political rivals but developed a great bond by their shared experience in the bipartisan War Cabinet.

En route to a dinner party the other night I happened to run into Attlee’s grandson (an old friend) on the upper deck of the 414 bus. It reminded me of this photo (above) printed in the Observer. When the great bulldog went on to his eternal reward in 1965, the incredibly frail Earl Attlee insisted on attending the state funeral in St Paul’s Cathedral. Though younger, he only managed to outlive him by two years.

Attlee had been raised to the House of Lords (where he spoke against Britain joining the EEC) in 1956 and, rather appropriately, he chose as the motto for his coat of arms Labor vincit omnia — Labour conquers all.

This post was published on Tuesday, March 14th, 2017 2:30 pm. It has been categorised under Great Britain History and been tagged under , , .
Scott Belliveau
14 Mar 2017 6:43 pm

I heard an interview with John Bew, the author of “Citizen Clem,” on Dan Snow’s podcast, “History Hit”. I did not realize that Churchill and Atlee were so friendly–nor that Atlee had been one of Churchill’s more resolute supporters during the war’s darker days, especially in early 1942.

Scott Belliveau
14 Mar 2017 6:44 pm

Few thought he was even a starter.
There were many in life who were smarter.
But he finished PM,
A CH, an OM,
An earl and a Knight of the Garter.
— Clement Atlee

L G Clark
14 Mar 2017 8:00 pm

May be, Cusack, may be.
But Churchill also (and more famously) said, in reply to somebody who was rabbiting on about Attlee’s humility: “He is indeed a humble man, but then he has much to be humble about”.

Andrew Cusack
15 Mar 2017 2:57 pm

There was also the old gem from Churchill: “An empty taxi pulled up to Number 10 and out of it stepped Clement Attlee.”

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