Clem Attlee took quiet pride in accomplishments

Dec 27 2012 - 1:30pm



Regarding Simon Johnson's Dec, 16 "Viewpoints: "Will 2013 mark the beginning of American decline" the writer begins his article with a supposed quip by Winston Churchill about Clement Attlee, his successor as prime minister: "A modest man, but then he has so much to be modest about." The rest of the article is about the lack of ability of economists to predict financial events.

It is unfortunate that this quote gives the impression that Churchill thought little of Attlee and that Attlee had little ability. Not so. Churchill appointed Attlee to various positions in his cabinet between 1941 and 1945, including deputy prime minister.

Of Attlee's accomplishments from 1945-1951, the one most U.S residents are aware of is health care. He appointed fiery Welshman Aneurin to be Minister of Health. Then he charged him with writing a Universal Health Plan. In a few months he did, and the bill passed both Houses of Parliament. With minor changes, it has continued through Labour and Conservative governments with the support of the people.

As for modesty, yes, Clem Attlee maintained a relaxed attitude to his own importance. He gave credit to others and to chance. Yet, he took a quiet pride in the awards he received. The following verse, he wrote, was found in the papers of his deceased brother, Thomas:

Few thought he was even a starter

There were many who thought they were smarter

But he ended PM, CH and OM (prime minister, Champion of Honor, Order of Merit)

An earl and a Knight of the Garter

Janet Shipton

(Daughter of Clement Attlee)


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