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The mouse that thundered: what we get wrong about Clement Attlee

Labour leadership hopefuls are keen to claim the mantle of the past. They would be advised to remember that Attlee was a romantic, as much the poet and prophet of the welfare state as its administrator

By Jason Whittaker  

Attlee in 1945

As the Labour leadership contest hots up—Nandy vs Starmer—the question inevitably turns to Labour leaders from the past. Attlee’s name is frequently invoked. Yet while he is a legendary figure on the left he is all too often misunderstood.

When he was elected as leader of the Labour Party in 1935, the Labour MP (and future chancellor of the exchequer) Hugh Dalton mocked Attlee as “a little mouse” who, at best, would serve as an interim figurehead. Ten years later, it was Attlee who led Labour to a landslide victory…

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