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May 18, 2008
I'm going away for the weekend but my nomination for British hero is up for the first round this afternoon so here's why you should vote for him:

Clement Attlee served as Winston Churchill's deputy in the War Coalition before winning the 1945 election and leading the most important and visionary government in the history of this country. It's achievements include the establishment of the National Health Service and the state pension.

Attlee and the War

Clement Attlee was born in 1883, was elected to Parliament in 1922 (having previously been a lecturer at LSE and served as a captain during WW1) and became leader of the Labour party in 1935. At this time, the party opposed rearmament but this soon changed and by 1937, the Labour party, led by Attlee, opposed the Chamberlain government's policy of appeasement. When it became clear that a united front would be needed against Nazi Germany, the Labour party agreed they would be prepared to enter into a War Coalition providing it was not led by Chamberlain. As his position was clearly untenable, Chamberlain resigned and Churchill replaced him as Prime Minister.

In the next five years Churchill and Attlee formed a formidable partnership: Churchill managing the war effort abroad and focusing on diplomacy with the allies and Attlee taking care of things on the home front. Attlee was Churchill's deputy in the War Cabinet and the Defence Committee and answered for the Government in Parliament during Churchill's long absences abroad. Attlee also chaired the 'Lord President's Committee' which organised the civil side of the war, working to equip the military in the factories and utilising the female population of the country at work where before the war the vast majority of them would have been housewives.

Prime Minister

After the defeat of Germany, Attlee's Labour party defeated Churchill's Conservatives in the 1945 election on the platform of social reform. As the soldiers returned from abroad, Attlee's visionary government set about to care for its citizens 'from the cradle to the grave'. This reform included the setting up of the National Health Service which gave medical care free at the point of use. It also set up a social security system where national insurance contributions would provide a state pension, child benefit and help for those who were sick or between jobs. His government also embarked on a campaign of job creation which meant unemployment rarely rose above 500,000.

Although the 'Welfare State' gets a bit of stick nowadays because of it being open to abuse, the principle of it was to help those in need where before there was very little state aid for victims of circumstances, especially as so many of those that fought in the war were from a background of poverty and those many of those that died in the war left families who would have had to fend from themselves.

Clement Attlee was a consensus leader whose style was more like a chairman than a charismatic president but he was a man who was a visionary and he got things done. His admirers span the political spectrum and Thatcher from the opposite side of that spectrum said of him "Of Clement Attlee, however, I was an admirer. He was a serious man and a patriot. Quite contrary to the general tendency of politicians in the 1990s, he was all substance and no show".


P.S. If someone could cut and paste this into the thread Napster sets up for the first round tie I'll give you some green on my return.