Was Clement Attlee a Modest Little Man? Essay

How far do sources G, H and I support the view that Attlee was ‘a modest little man with much to be modest about’. Winston Churchill once said of Clement Attlee that he was ‘a modest little man with much to be modest about. ’ Contrary to this quote by one of his critics, the letter in source G displays Attlee in less than a modest way. Written by Attlee himself, it should give a true representation of his character as it was not intended to be published. Therefore he had no need to pretend to be something he was not.

Within the letter he patronisingly points out where Churchill is not doing his job properly with many a snide remark. Clement Attlee mentions the ‘length of time…entailed on busy ministers’, implying that he has more important jobs to do which would discredit the description of him having ‘much to be modest about’. However the letter does display signs that Attlee was ‘modest’. He wrote that he had the ‘honour to preside’ in the committees set up by Churchill. It can be taken from this that he is a humble and appreciative man.

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As well Attlee refers to ‘we’ instead of I, showing he is modest by not taking the credit for himself. Also supporting Churchill’s view is source H, within which a colleague of Attlee, Aneurin Bevan, critiques his approach. Bevan states that Clement Attlee ‘consistently underplayed his position’ suggesting that he did not fulfil his role thus having ‘much to be modest about’. The term ‘underplayed’ could alternatively provide evidence of Attlee being a modest man if taken to mean under representing something.

Despite being written in a Labour magazine -the party of Attlee- the article does little to praise him. This in itself could supply evidence that Attlee did not do much as even his colleagues did not think much of him. Yet if this is the case the article may not be very reliable as the author has his own perception of Attlee that would be portrayed in it. Compared to the primary source of G, source H cannot be held with as much validity as it did not come first hand from Clement Attlee. In addition to source H, source I gives evidence that supports Churchill’s view of Clement Attlee.

The cartoon depicts his fellow colleagues not taking him seriously that could infer he had not done anything to make them do so. Hence inadvertently implying Attlee has ‘much to be modest about’. This source published in a newspaper at the time of Attlee’s term. Being that was in a highly read paper it had to reflect the opinions of people at the time. However as I did not come directly from Attlee it does not hold much validity because its creator was an opponent of his therefore it can be assumed that they created it to paint a negative picture of Attlee rather than a truthful one.

No one source definitively expresses the view that Clement Attlee was a ‘modest little man with much to be modest about’ yet aspects of them can be used to support or refute either of the two main points; that Attlee was modest and that he had much to be modest about . The evidence from the sources G and H supports the view that Attlee was ‘a modest little man’. There is less to prove he ‘had much to be modest about’ as the sources which implied this (H and I) were created by critics of Attlee who undoubtedly were biased against him.