'Patriots not Traitors'
Because of the vast number of men and women still serving overseas whose votes had to be collected and sent back home, the results of the British general election were not declared until 26 July 1945, three weeks after polling day. Both Attlee and Churchill had expected the Tories to win by about 70 seats. But to the surprise of everyone except the opinion pollsters, whose predictions were still regarded as little better than reading tea-leaves, Labour were swept into power by a landslide: they had a majority of 180 over the Tories and 146 over all others combined. Churchill was out. Attlee was the new prime minister, so unprepared that he had not even talked to his family about the possibility of a move to Downing Street from their modest home in Stanmore. 1 In India, nationalists greeted the news with enthusiasm, and Azad immediately cabled Attlee: 'Hearty congratulations to the people of Great Britain on the results of the election which demonstrate their abandonment of the old ideas and acceptance of a new world.' 2
The Tories' last landslide defeat, in 1906, had brought the ageing Lord Morley to the India Office. 1945 brought the 74-year-old Frederick Pethick‐ Lawrence, an equally well-intentioned old-Etonian lawyer, Fabian idealist, and sincere believer in Indian independence. He had just been elevated to the peerage as a baron, after serving as a back-bench Labour MP in 1923-31 and 1935-45. Together with his wife, a former suffragette, he had first visited India in 1926-7, where he had become a lasting friend of Gandhi and other Congress leaders. He had been a member of the round-table conference and was a founder of the India Conciliation Group, set up at Gandhi's suggestion after the second conference in I93I — Cripps's stepmother was another active member of this influential group. He was trusted and respected by Indian nationalists, and by appointing him Attlee was sending them a clear signal of good intent. His double-barrelled name, incidentally, came from adding his wife's family name, Pethick, to his own: