100 Note by Bruce of Conversation with Attlee

[LONDON], 13 January 1943

I saw Attlee this morning and he had in front of him my letter to the Prime Minister indicating that I wanted to see him. [1] Attlee asked me whether there was anything he could do and I replied somewhat brusquely I feared that there was not. Attlee explained to me why it was impossible for me to see the Prime Minister at the moment and we left the matter there. [2] I then said to Attlee that I understood there had been a number of meetings of the War Cabinet last week, but that he had not advised me of anything that had taken place in accordance with our arrangement. [3] Attlee said there had been meetings of the War Cabinet but nothing had taken place at them save the consideration of domestic questions. As an after thought he said that at one meeting, held yesterday, the question of what action should be taken in the event of Gandhi indulging in a hunger strike had been considered. In replying to this assurance of Attlee's I said I, of course, accepted his word that that was the position, but that it seemed to me to be a most extraordinary situation. We were now nearly half way through January in the most critical period of the war and from what he told me apparently there had not been a War Cabinet meeting this month at which anything of moment had been discussed other than the ordinary Monday meetings at which it seemed to me nothing of world rocking importance had been considered. I said that if this was so it appeared to me that Hitler had nothing on the Prime Minister of this country as a Dictator. To this outburst on my part Attlee had nothing to say, which rather stamped him for what he is; either he should be prepared to admit that is the position, and discuss with one the necessity of giving the Prime Minister a free hand, or else ask me what the hell I thought I was talking about. Attlee's feeble attitude drove me to the point of saying to him that I had suggested the other day that he should send Durbin [4] to see me, but that it seemed to me that not the slightest purpose would be served by my discussing anything with Durbin, and I would ask that he did not send him. To this equally Attlee had no comment to make. I am somewhat ashamed of being quite so rough with Attlee as it is extraordinarily like hitting a child, but he really is so hopeless that one is almost forced to be offensive.

1 Dated 12 January. On file AA:M100, January 1943 See also Document 101. 2 Churchill had departed for Cairo to attend the Casablanca Conference. 3 Attlee had agreed that on receiving the minutes of War Cabinet meetings he would send for Bruce and inform him of what had taken place. See Bruce's note of his conversation with Attlee on 4 November 1942 on file AA:M100, November 1942. 4 Personal Assistant to Attlee.
[AA:M100, JANUARY 1943]