John Andrews in “Who needs a Governor, anyway?” (Denver Post, 26 February 2012) writes about former Prime Minister Attlee:
“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 Internet, Churchill never said this about Clement Attlee, and quoting Churchill to this effect considerably misses his attitude toward political opponents.
Queried about the remark, Churchill replied to the effect that 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.
Review of Leo McKinstry’s excellent Churchill and Attlee. Excerpt:
Leo McKinstry’s book 738 pages—twice the size of the previous Attlee-Churchill book and is riveting from cover to cover. Scrupulously fair, McKinstry tells the story, backed by a voluminous bibliography, extensive research and private correspondence. Thus he captures Churchill’s generosity of spirit, and Attlee’s greatness of soul.
“Sometimes turbulent, often fruitful, theirs was a relationship unprecedented in the annals of British politics,” McKinstry concludes. It was partly “a reflection of Churchill’s greatness, and partly of Attlee’s patience.” Attlee was the longest-serving party leader of the 20th century, Churchill one of the longest-serving prime ministers. In 1940-55, one of them was always PM.
There have been other great rivalries, but the bond between them was unique, especially for persons with such opposite views. One spoke for liberty and a “minimum standard” guaranteed by the State. The other declared himself a socialist, but practiced a far milder form of socialism than dialectic Marxists. In the war, Churchill had but one goal: defeating Hitler. Attlee, as Deputy Prime Minister (a position Churchill created expressly for him) ran the country. In doing so, he set himself up for his own premiership.