The Labour Party of Great Britain was formed in 1900 and during the early decades of the century struggled as the opposition to Conservative Party, forming minority governments, under Ramsay McDonald, for only brief periods. Clement Attlee, representing London’s East End in Parliament, was there through those early struggles, a witness to Labour’s near annihilation in 1931, when it was reduced to just fifty-two seats in Parliament, and a central figure in its slow recovery over the following decade. He became the Labour leader in 1935, bringing the party into the wartime coalition in 1940, siding with Winston Churchill at Britain’s proverbial darkest hour. In 1945, the war over, Labour won an overwhelming mandate to carry out the most radical program ever presented to the British electorate by a major party. Attlee replaced Churchill as prime minister.
It is not always easy to separate Attlee, the individual, from the achievements of his government of 1945 to 1951. It was once said of the enigmatic Attlee that he was like a cricket ball—the higher he rose, the more difficult he became to capture. This timeline highlights major events in Attlee’s life, and the career of perhaps the most consequential British prime minister in the 20th century aside from Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.
Featured image credit: The Palace of Westminster in London, the meeting place of the Parliament of the United Kingdom by Mike Gimelfarb. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.