This biography of Clement Attlee, the architect of the NHS and the Welfare State, argues that he is one of only two post-war Prime Ministers who can claim to have changed the society in which we live (the other being Margaret Thatcher). In the years preceding World War II, polarization within British society was acute. The radicalism of the 1918 generation had spent itself in futile gestures and bitter recriminations, resulting in a minimal change in conditions for the poorest Britons. In 1945, however, the Labour government, led by Attlee, took office with the skill and the political will to translate socialist aspirations into legislation - to change the way men and women lived, fundamentally, and in a sense irreversibly.
The triumph of this work is the author's success in passing on his love for his subject. By the final chapter...I too liked Attlee, whom I had previously barely known. And I liked the man who brought him to life. Sion Simon, Spectator.
Beckett gets near to the essence of Attlee, and does so in an easy, flowing narrative. Roy Jenkins, Independent on Sunday.
More government records have been opened, and Beckett has used them to great effect. Roy Hattersley, The Times.
An engrossing personal biography of Attlee. Robert Pearce, History Today.
I have thoroughly enjoyed this very readable life of Clement Attlee. Frank Longford, The Tablet.
Paperback – Politicos, 2000 and 2007.