Historian John Bew has won the £3,000 Orwell Prize for Books 2017 for his biography of former Labour Prime Minister Clement Attlee, published by riverrun/Quercus.
The Orwell Prize for political writing is awarded by The Orwell Foundation each year to the book which comes closest to the English writer George Orwell’s ambition "to make political writing into an art". The winner of the £3,000 prize was announced at The Orwell Prize Ceremony at University College London and presented by Richard Blair, George Orwell’s son.
Citizen Clem: A Biography of Clement Atlee examines "the intellectual foundations and core beliefs of one of the most important figures in twentieth-century British history, arguing that he remains underappreciated, rather than simply underestimated". It wins The Orwell Prize just a week after a sea change election in British politics, in which Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour achieved the highest increase of the Labour vote since Clement Attlee’s party in 1945, while the UK remains set to leave the European Union.
Bew teaches History and Foreign Policy at the War Studies Department at King’s College London. He is a contributing writer at the New Statesman and the author of five books, including Realpolitik: A History and Castlereagh (OUP). He was born in Belfast, educated at Cambridge and lives in Wimbledon, London.
Playwright and author and judge of the prize Bonnie Greer said that “the timing of The Orwell Prize winner could not be more apt... Citizen Clem will go a long way towards re-balancing the Churchillian narrative.”
Meanwhile, fellow judge and Jonathan Derbyshire, executive comment editor at the Financial Times, described the book as “both a magnificent renewal of the art of political biography and a monument to the greatest leader the Labour party has ever had. It presents us with a man whose socialism was learned, not acquired.”
Joining Greer and Derbyshire on the judging panel were writer and broadcaster Mark Lawson, and writer and critic Erica Wagner.
The winners of The Orwell Prize for Journalism and The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils were also announced today. Irish Times journalist Fintan O’Toole won The Orwell Prize for Journalism for his commentary on the ramifications of Brexit, while Felicity Lawrence won The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils for a report on migrant gangwork in Wisbech.