Artwork - Clement Attlee, 1st Earl Attlee

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  • Title: Clement Attlee, 1st Earl Attlee
  • Artist: Ivor Roberts-Jones
  • Date: 1978--
  • Medium: Fully-rounded cast
  • Catalogue number: WOA S69
  • Description: Erected by parliamentary vote in 1979, at the unveiling of this statue Lord Shinwill of Easington described it as \'a complete justification of his efforts as Parliamentarian, as soldier and as leader of one of the great political parties and as Prime Minister. Those high distinctions justify a niche in the members\' lobby.\' As Prime Minister of the post-war Labour administration which swept to power in 1945, he carried legislation forward for nationalisation of key industries and established the welfare state. The statue is 7 feet 8 inches (2.3m) high, standing some 3 inches (7.6cm) higher than Oscar Nemon\'s statue of Sir Winston Churchill on the opposite Wall of the Lobby. This was carefully calculated by the sculptor in order to achieve a visual balance between the differing masses of two bronzes.

    Artwork of the month: On 8 October 1967, Clement Attlee, British Prime Minister from 1945 to 1951, died.

    Clement Attlee was one of the twentieth century’s most significant Prime Ministers. He was born in Putney in 1883, the seventh of eight children and educated at Northlaw School and University College Oxford. He was called to the Bar in 1906, and lectured at the London School of Economics until the outbreak of World War One. Attlee accepted an officer’s commission, and fought in Gallipoli, Mesopotamia and France. 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.

    Ten years after Attlee’s death, the Commons voted to place a statue of Attlee in Members Lobby, rather than the bust that had originally been proposed. The sculptor Ivor Roberts-Jones was selected by competition, proposing a 7 foot 8 inches high statue, which was cast by the Meridien Foundry in Peckham. The statue officially unveiled in Members Lobby on 12 November 1979, in front of an audience including James Callaghan and Margaret Thatcher, whose own statue would be placed opposite Attlee’s thirty years later.
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