Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Joseph Westwood

One inevitably of writing political biography, it seems, is that after the book is finished you start stumbling across valuable sources which somehow did not crop up during the research process. A good example is a biography of Clement Attlee I picked up last weekend in a Bloomsbury bookshop. It describes Attlee's infamously insensitive method of dismissing Cabinet ministers, particularly that of Scottish Secretary Joseph Westwood. This gets a mention in my chapter on Westwood but Francis Beckett's biography contains a lot more detail:

'Morning, Prime Minister,' said Westwood, 'I know what you're after, you want my job.' Clem said: 'Well, Joe, as a matter of fact, you know, you are getting on a bit and we have to make room for the young ones.' Westwood said: 'That's all right by me. You'll find I shall be just as loyal on the backbenches as on the Front Bench.'

And Arthur Woodburn, Attlee's second Scottish Secretary, fared little better.

'Good t'see you,' said the prime minister, 'I'm carrying through Government changes. Want your job for somebody else. Sake of the party, y'know. Write me the usual letter. Think of something as the excuse. Health, family, too much travelling, constituency calls. Anything will do. Good fellow. Thanks.'

When Woodburn pressed the prime minister for a reason, Attlee said: ''Cos you don't measure up to your job.'

[Francis Beckett, Clem Attlee, 270-71]


Blogger Julia Melvin said...

Useful piece of mosaic for me in constructing the life of Sir James Irvine.
Thank you
Julia Melvin

10:33 AM


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