John Andrews in “Who needs a Governor, anyway?” (Denver Post, 26 February 2012) writes:
“An empty taxi drove up to 10 Downing Street,” joked Winston Churchill about the man who defeated him for prime minister in 1946, “and out of it stepped Clement Attlee.” Droll, but Attlee laughed last. Nothing succeeds like success.
Andrews not only indulges in a Churchill red herring, but he gets the usual wording wrong—and the date wrong. Attlee’s Labour Party defeated Churchill’s Conservatives in July 1945.
Though it’s all over the Web, Churchill never said this about Attlee, and quoting Churchill to this effect considerably misses his attitude toward political opponents.
Queried about the remark, Churchill replied to the effect that Mr. Attlee was an honorable and gallant* gentleman and that he, Churchill, would deprecate any such remark.
The remark is listed in several Churchill quotation books, always without attribution–because there is none.
*In Parliamentary parlance, “gallant” refers to a Member of Parliament who has served in the forces.