In the closed circle of the war cabinet, pounded by terrible report after terrible report, there had been uncertainty about whether he could fend off the drift to exploring a deal with Hitler. The determination of the larger group trumped the tentativeness of the smaller, and Churchill fulfilled his role as leader by disentangling himself from defeatism--one of his singular achievements at the end of May 1940.
This historic general election, which showed that the British are well able to distinguish between patriotism and Toryism, brought Clement Attlee to the prime ministership. In the succeeding five years, Labor inaugurated the National Health Service, the first and boldest experiment in socialized medicine. It took into public ownership all the vital (and bankrupted) utilities of the coal, gas, electricity and railway industries. It even nibbled at the fiefdoms and baronies of private steel, air transport and trucking. It negotiated the long overdue independence of India. It did all this, in a country bled white by the World War and subject to all manner of unpopular rationing and controls, without losing a single midterm by-election (a standard not equaled by any government of any party since). And it was returned to office at the end of a crowded term.