Foreign News: Clem's Chauffeur

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Like many another middle-class British family back in the '30s, Mr. & Mrs. Clement Attlee liked to spend their weekends getting away from it all in the family car. When Clem's duties permitted, a trim 1936 Hillman sedan whisked them away from the cares of Parliament and the chores of suburban housekeeping, with comely, curly-haired Violet Attlee at the wheel, her husband tucked in beside her in the front seat and the back well-stocked with picnic fare.

In 1939 the coming of war brought an abrupt end to such pleasures, and the Hillman and its slim, spirited driver were kept busy dispatching Attlee on his wartime duties. Then came peace, and in 1945 Violet Attlee took the wheel of the Hillman to drive her husband over the length and breadth of Britain as he campaigned. One day soon after the election, Violet drove the new Prime Minister to Buckingham Palace to kiss King George's hand.

Bouquets & Serenades. Last week Veteran Driver Attlee sat once more behind the wheel of her vintage Hillman, as Britain's Prime Minister set out on an eight-day tour to put Labor's case before the voters a second time. As always, modest, attractive Mrs. Attlee was, in the words of a friend, "quietly piloting Clem, although Clem still sits in the front seat." A suitcase was packed, gas coupons checked, road maps ready and Clem's knees were snugly wrapped in a woolen blanket as Violet swung the Hillman's nose out of Downing Street toward Watford, 17½ miles to the north.

At Watford, Clem made a quarter-hour speech and the Hillman collected the first of the many bouquets that were soon to fill its back seat. From Watford the Attlee's road led to Wolverton and thence to Coventry. At each town border, local police escorts were waiting to pick up the Hillman.

The second day's run covered seven towns, a mayor's luncheon and open-air speeches in a drizzling rain, but on the third day Violet was up again bright & early to drive more miles. Once during the day, she hoisted herself on an open truck while an audience of electrical workers sang "For he's a jolly good fellow" to her husband. On the Attlees drove to Manchester, Liverpool, Bolton, Lancaster and across the Scottish border to Kilmarnock where heavy snow made the going rough.

The Best & the Worst. By the fifth day, Violet had driven 700 miles and Clem had made 18 speeches. By the time the Attlees reach Downing Street once more they will have covered some 1,500 miles. Friends were not sure whether Violet Attlee wants this tour, like the last, to end in Buckingham Palace. Some thought that maybe she would rather drive the Hillman into the neat garage of the Attlee's cozy new home, Cherry Cottage, in Buckinghamshire.

"Let's put it this way," said Mrs. Attlee last week, "I'm hoping for the best and preparing for the worst."