Clement AttleeLabour’s landslide victory

Clement Attlee used Labour’s landslide election victory of 1945 as a smokescreen to take control of the wartime propaganda organisation of the Ministry Of Information. Attlee was elected Prime Minister of the post-war Labour government in a surprise victory in the election of 1945. A solicitor who had fought with distinction in the First World War and held Cabinet rank throughout the Second, Attlee was the archetypal professional manager who was replacing the gentlemen Tories and LIberals who had ruled Britain for decades. Churchill is said to have jibed that he was ‘A modest man with a great deal to be modest about,’ but the Labour party under Attlee’s leadership was the only party with a detailed plan for national revival and reconstruction in the post-war world, and was elected with 393 seats, against 247 seats won by all other parties combined.  Labour was thus able to push straight ahead with its radical programme of legislation, especially the nationalisation of key industries, despite opposition protests. Attlee’s key lieutenant in government was Herbert Morrison, Deputy Prime Minister and Lord President of the Council – a role that enabled Morrison to take on wide ranging powers and responsibilities.  Among these was responsibility for running government information services. The Ministry Of Information was slated to be wound up as soon as the war ended.  “With regard to peace-time publicity, there will be no interference with the press in this country.”  This was the pledge given by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain when he announced the formation of the Ministry Of Information in 1939. Herbert MorrisonMorrison (left) now abolished the MOI, in line with Chamberlain’s promise, and replaced it with a much cut-down organisation, the Central Office of Information – little more than an in-house ad agency for running off government posters, pamphlets and films.  In secret, however, Morrison contrived to retain many of the propaganda policy-making powers of the MOI through a number of Cabinet committees which he chaired. He became the Attlee government’s Minister of Information in deed rather than in name. Over the next five years Morrison would mastermind a series of MOI-style propaganda campaigns and the formation of clandestine propaganda units in Whitehall. His key aide in these campaigns was Clem Leslie, his wartime director of PR. These multi-million pound campaigns, essentially promoting Labour Party policies, would be mounted without reference to Parliament and in many cases without the knowledge of Parliament or Press.   To read about the Origins of George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four click here.