29th March 2017….Citizen Clem

 

Finished my latest major bit of reading ‘Citizen Clem’ by John Guy. Through my interest in Churchill I had often come across Attlee but purely as a background figure. I had wanted to Unknown-1.jpegknow more, just as I would like to know a lot more about the other great reformer of the twentieth century Loyd George. So, to the book. It was 550 odd pages of pure pleasure. A serious History by a serious historian, yes. But written in such a style as to always leave you wanting to pick up again and find out how things developed next. Attlee was in fact something of a hero, and a very unlikely one at that. And, although Churchill himself called him ‘a modest man with much to be modest about’ the truth is that he had every confidence in leaving Attlee in charge when on his many forays abroad. He was also glad to leave most of Home Affairs in Attlee’s capable hands. Now although one cannot get away from Attlee’s shyness, his reserve, and how this translated into his political life, the fact is that Attlee oversaw the greatest and most radical transformation of British society in this momentous century including the establishment of the NHS and social insurance. He was also very influential in giving India its independence and ensuring the smooth transition from Empire to Commonwealth….all this fro a man who was a great patriot but whose background and early feelings led him to be very pro-Empire. One of the reasons he was able to push through so much in such a short time was the fact that it was difficult to criticise him..he was the archetypal upright public servant. And this reminds one of another important aspect of what he argued for and achieved…his belief that new rights could only be bound up with new duties. Thus the title of the book….Citizen Clem. Citizenship was what he aspired to. He had lots of people who tried to do him down at times,¬†Churchill foremost, but significantly most of these people were his own back benchers and Ministers. He handled them with aplomb. What I found fascinating was that very often his knight in shining armour was Ernie Bevin. Now there was a man – I would like to know more about him. Such a pity that John Guy hasn’t written his biography. Anyway a truly great history, much enjoyed.

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