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Mel Stride

Reading

Thu 8 Nov 2018

By Mel Stride

I have very little time nowadays for reading books. I used to read a lot of them – bookshelves in fact – many of them biographies and a long line of American authors who I have always been drawn to in the way that accents can swill around your head and take you to another place more vivid than your own because it is far off and part understood. But then the politics got in the way and the book reading kind of died and so I spend hours running through corridors of submissions from officials in the Civil Service, in the Treasury and elsewhere setting out the detail around the many decisions that any minister must make. Dipping into a thousand places just long enough to understand – holding a light to a passing thought. But occasionally, just sometimes, I eek out a space. This summer there were several books I read, one of the most interesting of which was a biography of Clement Attlee, the post war Labour Prime Minister who ushered in the welfare state, the NHS along with some less attractive things like the nationalisation of our major industries of the day. Attlee was a fascinating man not just because of what he did but because of who he was. Shy and quietly spoken he served as Deputy Prime Minister during the Second World War - under the all consuming daze of Churchill in a national government. Colossus, great leader, orator, master of the spoken word, personality, boozer and sentimentalist Churchill overshadowed Attlee in all things vocal and visual. But what he lacked in fireworks was made up for in integrity, attention to detail and the steady ability to build consensus. I have always liked Attlee – for his shyness, his apparent lack of ambition and perhaps also for his luck (it was certainly not self promotion that took him to the top – more circumstance such as Labour’s electoral wipe out in 1931 that left him in poll position to become deputy party leader and then in 1935 leader after the resignation of Lansbury). In today’s ‘shout it from the roof tops’ and sometimes abusive political world he stands out as something quietly better and in a rather British way. That he was a socialist was not all bad – I doubt he would have had any time for Mr Corbyn in the same way that he had little time for those on the left of the Labour party of his day and the recurrent communists who popped up here and there but never really got in under the skin of our cautious country. Attlee was a patriot who had fought with distinction at Gallipoli during the Great War and on whose watch we successfully pursued the atomic bomb. After many hours sitting with the calm dignity of Clement Attlee it was something of a change o arrive back in Westminster for the sound and the fury of that place at this time. More from Mel on Twitter @MelJStride and online at www.melstridemp.com



Other columns by Mel Stride

EU - In or Out? - Mon 11 Mar 2013
Opportunity. - Tue 22 Jan 2013
Where do we begin? - Tue 13 Nov 2012
To Infinity and Beyond - Wed 5 Sep 2012
Working in Westminster - Sun 1 Jul 2012
A Better Balance - Thu 5 Jan 2012
Capital Shame - Mon 7 Nov 2011
Olympic Feat... - Sun 11 Sep 2011
The Coalition - A year on - Mon 11 Jul 2011
Labour Dreams - Sun 17 Apr 2011
Now we really must mean Business - Thu 10 Mar 2011
Freedom and Responsibility - Sun 9 Jan 2011
A leader for Labour - Thu 4 Nov 2010
Education and Freedom - Mon 6 Sep 2010
Tradition and Words - Mon 6 Sep 2010
Mel Stride - Early Days in Westminster - Tue 6 Jul 2010
Mel Stride Conservative Parliamentary Candidate on The Big Society - Mon 3 May 2010
A look back over my years as Conservative parliamentary candidate and contributor to The Cottage - Sun 28 Feb 2010
Building the homes of the Future means giving Power to the People - Thu 3 Dec 2009
Early memories... - Wed 4 Nov 2009
As General Franco lay dying... - Tue 20 Oct 2009


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