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Clement Attlee

Clement Attlee became the first Labour Prime Minister after the Second World War. Attlee was called to the Bar in 1906, and lectured at the London School of Economics until the outbreak of World War One. He saw service during the War in Gallipoli, Mesopotamia and France, and by the end of the war he had been promoted to the rank of Major. The peace freed Attlee to pursue his interest in politics, and in 1920 he published his first book, The Social Worker, which set out many of the ideas that would inform his later government. He was elected to represent Limehouse, in East London, in 1922, and would later serve as an undersecretary in the first ever Labour government under Ramsay MacDonald.

Attlee was elected leader of the Labour party in 1935. Although initially against rearmament, Attlee came to recognise the threat of Hitler, and opposed the Munich Agreement negotiated by Chamberlain in 1938. Following Chamberlain's resignation, Attlee served under Churchill as the first ever Deputy Prime Minister until the 1945 election.

Labour's campaign "Let Us Face the Future" delivered a surprise majority on 26 July 1945, the first time the Labour party had ever commanded a majority in the House of Commons. Over the next six years, Attlee's government would put in place the welfare state and the National Health Service, and supported the Marshall Plan and the foundation of NATO.

Image: © Parliamentary Art Collection, WOA S69