We have updated our Privacy Policy Please take a moment to review it. By continuing to use this site, you agree to the terms of our updated Privacy Policy.

Citizen Clem

Paperback / ISBN-13: 9781780879925

Price: £14.99

ON SALE: 7th September 2017

Genre: Society & Social Sciences / Politics & Government

Disclosure: If you buy products using the retailer buttons above, we may earn a commission from the retailers you visit.

*Book of the year: The Times, Sunday Times, New Statesman, Spectator, Evening Standard*
‘Outstanding . . . We still live in the society that was shaped by Clement Attlee’ Robert Harris, Sunday Times
‘The best book in the field of British politics‘ Philip Collins, The Times
‘Easily the best single-volume, cradle-to-grave life of Clement Attlee yet written’ Andrew Roberts

Clement Attlee was the Labour prime minister who presided over Britain’s radical postwar government, delivering the end of the Empire in India, the foundation of the NHS and Britain’s place in NATO. Called ‘a sheep in sheep’s clothing’, his reputation has long been that of an unassuming character in the shadow of Churchill. But as John Bew’s revelatory biography shows, Attlee was not only a hero of his age, but an emblem of it; and his life tells the story of how Britain changed over the twentieth century.

Here, Bew pierces Attlee’s reticence to examine the intellect and beliefs of Britain’s greatest – and least appreciated – peacetime prime minister. This edition includes a new preface by the author in response to the 2017 general election.

What's Inside

Read More Read Less


Easily the best single-volume, cradle-to-grave life of Clement Attlee yet written. Professor Bew updates but also betters all the other biographies with this intelligent, well-researched and highly readable book. Scholarly and perceptive, it tells the story of how quiet determination and impeccable political timing wrought a peaceful revolution
Andrew Roberts
If Labour is to return to power, it is not to Tony Blair and Harold Wilson to whom it should turn for inspiration but to the ethos and example of Attlee . . . Citizen Clem promises to be one of the highlights of the autumn season
Jason Cowley, New Statesman
The brilliant young historian John Bew urges Labour to recapture something of the ethos of the Attlee period
In this monumental biography, John Bew sets out to explore, not just the scale of the achievement, but to discover what made Attlee tick . . . A good book about a remarkable man
Chris Mullin, Guardian
Fascinating . . . He writes with flair and considerable intellectual confidence . . . Bew believes that Labour has lost a sense of historical mission . . . This insight seems right to me
Jason Cowley, Financial Times
This biography makes a strong case for Attlee's greatness . . . Such contradictions deserve a discerning biographer, and in John Bew, Attlee has the man he deserves. He has written with verve and confidence a first-rate life of a man whom he correctly argues has been under-appreciated . . . What a life and what a man
Daniel Finkelstein, The Times
Outstanding . . . This excellent new life of Labour's greatest leader . . . We still live in the society that was shaped by Clement Attlee . . . Bew's achievement is not only to bring this curious and introverted man to life, but to make him oddly loveable. He steps out like a character from the pages of the social novels of H. G. Wells or George Orwell . . . To read this book in the shadow of the present Labour leadership election is a salutary experience
Robert Harris, Sunday Times
An absorbing new life of Clement Attlee shows how a quiet man from the suburbs became Labour's unlikely postwar hero . . . So how did a man who was the object of so much private derision by his peers come to preside over Labour's greatest (some might say only) radical government? Bew puts the question at the core of his story. He answers it convincingly by mixing arresting narrative with a thorough study of the people and policies of the Labour movement at a time of hardship interspersed by war and fierce ideological difference . . . The book is replete with amusing vignettes . . . This book will become required reading for the present-day Labour party
John Kampfner, Observer
Magisterial . . . A great work of personal biography, social history, political philosophy, international relations and ferrets-in-a-sack Labour Party infighting . . . Bew explores in great detail Attlee's pilgrim's progress toward socialism with a thorough critique of his literary, cultural and political reading. . . As the Labour Party retreats towards ideological self-immolation, as Britain stumbles on the world stage, and as European social democracy stands in peril, we need another Attlee more than ever. In the absence of which, we have Bew's brilliant book
Tristram Hunt, Prospect
Read this book to understand what Labour once was and what has been lost because of its embrace of identity politics and ultra-liberalism. Book of the Year
Jason Cowley, New Statesman
A masterful portrait of a man who led the Labour Party for 20 years and arguably did more than any other UK politician to shape the postwar world . . . Attlee was a patriot who believed that tolerance was Britain's greatest gift to the world. Now, more than ever, it is tolerance we need. Book of the Year
Tom Watson, New Statesman
Attlee was a distant and austere figure by reputation, but the book sweeps that away from the start, recalling Clem the street agitator and war hero. Book of the Year
Roland White, Sunday Times
The author sets out to claim a place among the greats for his subject and succeeds . . . The lessons for modern politics are made clearly. Book of the Year
Daniel Finkelstein, The Times
Bew has the detachment of a professional historian, but an understanding of politics and personalities. Book of the Year
Kwasi Kwarteng, Evening Standard
The best book in the field of British politics. Book of the Year.
Philip Collins, The Times
Bew is particularly good on the dynamics of his close relationship with Churchill . . . Bew's revelatory biography explains that achievement. But it also brings us a 3D, flesh and blood Citizen Clem, and boy, does he make him shine!
Gordon Marsden, Times Higher Education
This is a big book in scope and depth and is a very good read besides. It is not just a political biography, but an explanation of the man, what made him, the roots of his patriotism, his military experience in the First World War, his love of literature . . . in a way Citizen Clem is a history of the twentieth century
His true political genius and unflinching moral purpose are brilliantly reappraised in John Bew's Citizen Clem . . . This book is a rare beast - political biography at its finest, yet one that is deeply moving
David Bell, Times Literary Supplement
Winner of the Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography
Both a magnificent renewal of the art of political biography and a monument to the greatest leader the Labour party has ever had. It presents us with a man whose socialism was learned, not acquired
Jonathan Derbyshire, Judge of The Orwell Prize
Winner of The Orwell Prize for Political Writing
John Bew's survey of Labour's post-war hero Clement Attlee resurrects the idea of the political biography almost thought lost: encyclopaedic, analytical, massive in scope but intimate in understanding.
Waterstones Weekly