It was worse in 1931
- Citizen Clem: A Biography of Attlee by John Bew
Riverrun, 668 pp, £30.00, September 2016, ISBN 978 1 78087 989 5
It is hard to imagine Clement Attlee, the most effective champion of ordinary working people in Labour’s history, thriving in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. Not only was he a conventional public school product – enormously proud of his Haileybury connection – and an unquestioning British patriot of military mien and experience, he had very limited patience for leftist fads and the highbrows who prattled on about them. At a meeting of Edwardian Fabians attended by George Bernard Shaw and Sidney Webb, Attlee whispered to his brother: ‘Do we have to grow a beard to join this show?’ The confident pre-1914 left, he later reflected, had been too rigid in its scientific approach to social problems and altogether ‘too Webby’.
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