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Clement Attlee: The Inevitable Prime Minister [Hardcover]

Michael Jago
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

20 May 2014
Elected in a surprise landslide in 1945, Clement Attlee was the first ever Labour leader to command a majority government. At the helm for twenty years, he remains the longest-serving leader in the history of the Labour Party. When he was voted out in 1951, he left with Labour's highest share of the vote before or since. And yet today he is routinely described as the 'accidental Prime Minister'. A retiring man, overshadowed by the flamboyant Churchill during the Second World War, he is dimly remembered as a politician who, by good fortune, happened to lead the Labour Party at a time when Britain was disillusioned with Tory rule and ready for change. In Clement Attlee: The Inevitable Prime Minister, Michael Jago argues that nothing could be further from the truth. Raised in a haven of middle-class respectability, Attlee was appalled by the squalid living conditions endured by his near neighbours in London's East End. Seeing first-hand how poverty and insecurity dogged lives, he nourished a powerful ambition to achieve power and create a more egalitarian society in 1935, Attlee was single-minded in pursuing his goals, and in just six years from 1945 his government introduced the most significant features of post-war Britain: the National Health Service, extensive nationalisation of essential industry, and the Welfare State that Britons now take for granted. A full-scale reassessment, Clement Attlee: The Inevitable Prime Minister traces the life of a middle-class lawyer's son who relentlessly pursued his ambition to lead a government that would implement far-reaching socialist reform and change forever the divisive class structure of twentieth-century Britain.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Biteback (20 May 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849546835
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849546836
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.6 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 71,519 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Jago has produced a thoughtful and readable biography, and has made his own contribution to the Attlee canon with new research and insights. --Francis Beckett, New Statesman

Jago's excellent biography ... is a masterly piece of work and goes some way to redressing the balance. --Chris Hallam

Michael Jago ... has discovered some new sources and has admirably reworked old ones to show that that whilst Attlee was lucky, he has experience, determination and grit. --Keith Simpson MP

I can see myself telling researchers of the future, asking about Attlee, that Jago should be their first port of call... [B]y far the best account of his university years. --Dr Robin Darwall Smith, Fellow and Archivist of University College, Oxford

About the Author

MICHAEL JAGO read Ancient History and Philosophy at University College, Oxford before settling in the USA in 1980. For fifteen years he ran an educational travel business, focusing on the battlefields of western Europe. Previously a publisher and editor of a number of journals, he now specialises in biography. His biography of John Bingham, The Man Who Was George Smiley, was published by Biteback in 2013. He lives in both Chicago and southwest France.

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Few great political leaders have been so frequently underestimated as Clement Richard Attlee. In his early years, he showed little sign of becoming anything special or indeed of developing a socialist outlook. As Jago explains, for a Victorian boy of Attlee’s background born in 1883, there was simply no means of becoming a socialist. The teenage Attlee once argued that the working classes could not be expected to appreciate museums and art galleries in a school debating society. Attlee would later be embarrassed by these views, although as a lifelong champion of both the monarchy and the public school system, a conservative strain to Attlee’s thinking always remained.

Attlee seemed set for a fairly unpromising legal career until a period of voluntary work which started before the First World War transformed his outlook and which in the 1920s launched him towards politics. He continued to be underestimated, however. The first ever Oxford graduate to become a Labour MP, his rise to the leadership in 1935 surprised many. Most assumed he would be a temporary stop gap leader. In fact, he would be the longest serving Labour leader there has ever been, lasting twenty years until 1955 (Ed Miliband will need to last until 2030 to do as well! )

Churchill underestimated him too describing him as “a sheep in sheep’s clothing” despite witnessing his competence working alongside him in the wartime coalition in which Attlee eventually became the first ever Deputy Prime Minister. Churchill invited him to the first half of the critical post-war Yalta Conference on the off chance that Attlee might win the 1945 election and thus need to attend the rest as Prime Minister. But this was a formality. Churchill didn’t expect him to win.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 10 Sep 2014
By Michael
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
.This is how to write a biography
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Easy to read but does not do the subject justice 3 July 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This short book is a brief, thumbnail sketch. Easy to read but does not do the subject justice.
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