How the Labour Party governed between the years 1945 and 1951, examining their relationship with the working class and how “socialist” it really was.
“I look around my colleagues and I see landlords, capitalists and lawyers. We are a cross-section of the national life and this is something that has never happened before.”
Arthur Greenwood, Labour Lord Privy Seal, Hansard, August 17, 1945.
THE war in Europe ended on May 5, 1945. As a result of the General Election that followed, the Labour Government took office on July 26, 1945. Eleven days later, on August 6, the first atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. The second atom bomb devastated Nagasaki on August 9. The total casualties from these two insane acts will never be known, but the death roll was certainly upwards of half-a-million and, eighteen years later, victims are still dying from radiation sickness. The dropping of these bombs was not solely an act of American policy. President Truman has stated that he obtained the agreement of the British Government before the mass-murder was committed and the Labour Government had observers, including Group-Captain Cheshire and nuclear scientist Sir William Penney, at the bomb-dropping.
“The first task of the Labour Government was to complete the winning of the war against Japan and the general anticipation had been that this might prove to be a long and difficult one … but the use of the atom bomb at Hiroshima brought the war to a sudden end. It was, of course, an immense relief.”
Clement Attlee, As It Happened, p. 150.
Japan surrendered on August 15, but not all the Allied leaders agree with Attlee’s cold-blooded justification of the use of the atom bomb. Rear-Admiral Zacharias, Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence, USA, writing in the American publication Look, asserts: “Japan would have surrendered by August 15, 1945, without the use of extreme measures.”
Admiral Zacharias broadcast on July 21, 1945, offering Japan the chance to surrender unconditionally. Tokyo’s answer was, he says, “in effect an open invitation to begin surrender negotiations on the terms we had proposed.”
Later, because of the work of spies in Britain, the USA withheld atom bomb information and the Labour Government began work on its own atom and hydrogen bombs. Before this was completed, the Tories had displaced the Labour Party and it was Churchill’s task to announce the success of Britain’s own bomb, though he graciously admitted that his Government had only plucked the fruit from thee tree planted by another:
“All those concerned in the production of the first British atomic bomb are to be warmly congratulated on the successful outcome of an historic episode and I should no doubt pay my compliments to the Leader of the Opposition and the party opposite for initiating it.”
Churchill in the House of Commons, Hansard, Oct. 24, 1952.
And Attlee, from the Labour benches, bowed and smiled his thanks for the compliment…