Attlee, a disaster for Britain

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I have already, in an earlier article, explained how Attlee continued wartime rationing for more than 6 years after WW2 ended, starving the British people. Not only that, he made rationing stricter, adding bread rationing in 1946 and potato rationing in 1947. He even went into the 1950 and 1951 general elections promising to ration and starve the British people indefinitely. Luckily Churchill won in 1951 and used the wonders of capitalism to remove rationing.

No Labour government would be complete without a thorough trashing of the economy. Their left wing dogma just fails every time it is applied. So Wilson had his devaluation, Callaghan his Winter of Discontent and Gordon Brown his huge 7% recession, which the left have falsely tried to blame the banks for. Attlee’s government also, obviously, trashed the economy, the highlight of which was a Sterling crisis. The pound was pegged to the U.S. dollar at a rate of £1 = $4.03 in 1940. This rate  became part of the Bretton Woods system which governed post-war exchange rates. After months of denials that it would do so, on 19 September 1949 Attlee devalued the pound by 30.5% to $2.80. An immense disaster of sheer incompetence.

The USA threw money at Europe in the Marshall Plan to aid post war recovery. Germany received one and a half billion dollars (an immense amount then) and used it to rebuild their industry, from which they still benefit. UK received over twice as much and frittered it away on socialist dogma. Attlee created a massively generous welfare state where people received benefits if they didn’t feel like working and where the state thought it could spend people’s money better than they themselves could. Attlee borrowed immense amounts of money from USA and Canada, 6 billion in 1946 alone, which was wasted on fiscal incontinence and dogma and which took many decades to repay. Attlee vastly increased taxes, taking earned money out of the economy especially as the number of people paying income tax greatly increased with the introduction of PAYE.

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Attlee nationalised all the major industries, under the delusion that his political clique in Westminster could manage businesses better than the market could. The Bank of England and civil aviation were nationalised in 1946. Coal mining, the railways, road haulage, canals and Cable and Wireless were nationalised in 1947, electricity and gas followed in 1948. The steel industry was nationalised in 1951. By 1951 about 20% of the British economy had been taken into public ownership. They were in a position, for instance, to tell the steel company exactly how much steel to make and what price to sell it for. Politics ruled decision making instead of commercial reality. No wonder that nationalisation ran all these industries into the ground. Something the British people experienced during the winter of 1947, when there was not enough electricity to go round, so Attlee was forced to cut it off from homes and industry. With utter incompetence they had gone into the winter with just 4 weeks’ coal reserves instead of the normal 12 weeks’.

Then there was Attlee’s treachery. On 16 August 1945, in the House of Commons, Winston Churchill said “it is not impossible that tragedy on a prodigious scale is unfolding itself behind the iron curtain which at the moment divides Europe in twain” as the extent of Stalin’s brutal oppression of a great swathe of Europe became apparent. Russia had become our enemy. But we had a huge technology advantage including jet engines, which allowed up to build vastly superior military aircraft. Amazingly Attlee then gave advanced Rolls Royce Nene jet engines to the Soviet Union in 1946 and 1947. The Soviets promptly reverse engineered the engine, put it into mass production and built the Mig 15 fighter around it (production of which reached about 12,000 aircraft). These were then used to shoot down and kill our pilots during the Korean war. They engaged us with Mig 15s in 1,683 daylight aerial battles and 107 at night, claiming to have shot down 1,097 UN aircraft over Korea, including 647 F-86s, 185 F-84s, 118 F-80s, 28 F-51s, 11 F-94s, 65 B-29s, 26 Gloster Meteors. Our servicemen’s blood on Attlee’s hands. To me this makes Attlee a traitor.

Socialists often campaign against nuclear weapons. But Attlee was a great enthusiast for them.  He set up a cabinet sub-committee, the Gen 75 Committee, to examine the feasibility as early as 29 August 1945. Work on a British facilities began in February 1946 at Harwell in Berkshire, Risley in Cheshire and the Calder Hall reactors at Windscale. Attlee is the father of the British nuclear bomb.

Socialists like trade unions and strikes. They think that damaging the economy is a good thing. They will be very unhappy to discover that Attlee used the army to break strikes. As soon as Labour came to power, the Attlee government was faced with an ongoing  10 week old national dock strike over revised wages. Employers at the Surrey Docks in London had already suspended 1,500 workers for working to rule. This provoked further unofficial action. So, 5 days after the general election, the new Labour government ordered the troops to unload the cargoes at Surrey. Another unofficial dock strike took place in the autumn, involving 43,000 strikers at its height. This time 21,000 troops were used to break the strike.

In fact, when it comes to dealing with organised Labour and industrial action Attlee makes Margaret Thatcher look like a saint. Just look at this article extract (click here to read the entire in depth article): “striking dockers, gas workers, miners and lorry drivers were denounced, spied upon and prosecuted. Two States of Emergency were proclaimed against them and two more were narrowly averted. Above all, the government used blacklegs against these strikes, often with the connivance of the strikers’ own trade union leaders. On 18 different occasions between 1945 and 1951, the government sent troops, sometimes 20,000 of them, across picket lines to take over strikers’ jobs. By 1948, it has been argued, ‘strike-breaking had become almost second nature to the Cabinet.’ That was in public. In secret, as recently-released Cabinet Papers show, the government revived the Supply and Transport Organisation which their Tory predecessors of 1926 had used to help crush the General Strike. And it did so with the active involvement of two of the most famous left-wing leaders Labour has produced – Aneurin Bevan and Sir Stafford Cripps.”

Also in 1948 Attlee formed the Cabinet committee Gen 183 on subversive activities, they came up with the “Purge Procedure”. Any senior civil servant who was a member of the communist party or any associated organisation of who was thought to be a fascist got booted out of their job. All it took was to be named by MI5 as a suspect and they were gone. This was the British version of the McCarthy witch hunts in America, but done in secret. Maybe hundreds of people lost their jobs because of their politics.

Socialists hate toffs. Attlee’s father was a solicitor. Attlee was educated at Northaw School, a private boys’ preparatory school near Pluckley in Kent. He then attended Haileybury College, a public school (in the UK this means private), and University College, Oxford. He was a product of privilege.

As we retreated from Empire Attlee wanted to dictate the outcomes in individual countries. When things didn’t go his way he engaged in secret “dirty” wars. Most notably in  Palestine, Malaya, Kenya and Cyprus. As you can read in the book Imperial Endgame.

Indian independence and partition were driven by Attlee who formulated the Indian Independence Act 1947. Between one and two million people were violently killed as a direct result.

People point to the NHS as Attlee’s greatest success. In reality it is one of his greatest failures. Universal healthcare is essential. But no other country has copied the NHS. If you were starting again with a blank sheet of paper there is no way that any sane person would re-create the mess we have now. Countries as diverse as Holland and New Zealand have proven that there are far better ways to do it. The NHS wastes many billions of pounds every year giving the British people poor treatment.

Obviously Attlee is in the running for the title of Worst Ever British Prime Minister. But there is strong competition, from Harold Wilson, Jim Callaghan, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Quite simply every time that socialist dogma is applied to a country it is a complete disaster. This has been proved around the world countless times.

Now let’s look at some of the “successes” attributed to Attlee:

Free education: introduced with Conservative minister RA Butler’s 1944 Education Act.

Child benefits: introduced by the 1945 Conservative caretaker government. The legislation passed on 16th June 1945, Attlee came to power on 25 July.

NHS: Attlee nationalised the existing health infrastructure but built no new hospitals, he just took existing local authority and charity hospitals into public ownership. See the superior Conservative NHS proposal from 1944 here.

It would be hard to think of any other British Prime Minister who caused as much harm to Great Britain as Attlee did.




  1. I’ve never read a bigger load of utter nonsense in my entire than this biased dogmatic rant


    1. Nigel Nobes,

      So you approve of Attlee starving the British people, using the Army to break strikes, giving the Soviets our jet technology and making nuclear bombs.


    2. I found it rather amusing; the NHS and Beverage Report/Welfare State were obviously big mistakes


      1. tony,

        The NHS was a pre war Conservative proposal.
        Beveridge proposed short term benefits between jobs, not a dependency culture. Read his report.


        1. My Dear Bruce, I , although there is a lot in what you say which is true ,these comments about “the dependency culture” are not at all so cut and dried ,So Black or White , even so Whig or Tory….the reasons for this culture having a minority who are “idle” for whatever reasons are historical….and necessarily complex….they involve situations which go back to the Norman Conquest, and before that to the Roman “Brittania”
          The Current Media Portrayal(I could choose many a stronger epithet for this but for the purposes of respect to your good intentions “portrayal” shall suffice here) is vastly Inaccurate….In the later Victorian and the Edwardian Period we had Money which was really valuable ……A Five Poundnote or indeed five golden sovereigns would produce a value of around a Thousand pounds Now—–A silver half a crown piece around £25 today…..and reckon well…..there was although limited ….the possibility of social mobility …..talent was often recognized and utilised….there was also the potential of travel to the wider British Empire for self improvement and the seeking of fortune…..I would point to a series of very unwise(hindsight is such a fine thing is that not?) moves by politicians of all hues have resulted in the present situation where many intuit that without drastic change …..humanity is headed into progressively more turbulent waters.
          I would suggest that Government , Capital and Welfare……all need a very careful manipulation into a truly caring society where Talent is properly utilised and where with respect for the whole community the Economy can be re-worked to an economy where more of the population shall contribute more usefully , and where scapegoats shall not be demonised , least of all the most vulnerable members! Education need be improved and the “Labour saving devices” which were to usher in the fantasy , leisurely and PROMISED LAND science fiction utopia need to somehow be transformed !!!!!
          Of course , Mr Attlee made Mistakes….and many before and after , but we live in a country which remains one of the best in the world-and in which we could all do with a large measure of gratitude to the sacrifices of our ancestors , which brought (or bought) the Good in it , Often with blood!
          With all due respect………….R.Stirling , Glastonbury!!!!!!!!


  2. Bruce, I think you’ve made the wrong comparison there. You should be comparing Attlee with Blair. Tony Blair was the worst PM we ever had. I refuse to acknowledge Brown as a former PM. He was an imposter – NO ONE ever voted for him.


  3. Oh look:

    ” In 1997, his grandson John, who inherited his title as the 3rd Earl Attlee, crossed the floor of the House of Lords to join the Conservative Party. He said that his grandfather would be “horrified” by the party Labour had become. John’s father, Martin, the 2nd Earl, left Labour in 1982 and became a founding member of the Social Democratic Party.”


    1. Steven,
      Here is the pyramid of intellect. See how near the bottom you are.


  4. When did Attlee nationalise the British car industry – as you say he did?


  5. Thanks. I’m German and there was a bit of debate with a friend about the Marshall plan (Germany got some debt/reparations relief as well after hard bargaining by Adenauer). Didn’t know that UK got some as well; but fully believable that the Fabian government of Attlee just wasted it. All those nationalisations need paid.


  6. The Cyprus emergency began in 1955, four years after Mr Attlee left office.


  7. Hi Bruce,

    I’ve been reading through some of your well-argued and pithy points here. As an amateur historian, I’ve been searching for ages for anything less than worship on Attlee and I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind sharing your sources or recommending some decent books. I’ll enter my email below



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