137 Facts About Hugh Gaitskell


Hugh Todd Naylor Gaitskell was a British politician who served as Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition from 1955 until his death in 1963.


Hugh Gaitskell did not reject public ownership altogether, but emphasised the ethical goals of liberty, social welfare and above all equality, and argued that they could be achieved by fiscal and social policies within a mixed economy.


Hugh Gaitskell was loved and hated for his confrontational leadership and brutal frankness.


Hugh Gaitskell died suddenly in 1963, when he appeared to be on the verge of leading Labour back into power and becoming the next Prime Minister.


Hugh Gaitskell was born in Kensington, London, the third and youngest child of Arthur Gaitskell, of the Indian Civil Service, and Adelaide Mary, nee Jamieson, whose father, George Jamieson, was consul-general in Shanghai and prior to that had been Judge of the British Supreme Court for China and Japan.


Hugh Gaitskell was educated at the Dragon School from 1912 to 1919, where he was a friend of the future poet John Betjeman.


Hugh Gaitskell then attended Winchester College from 1919 to 1924.


Hugh Gaitskell attended New College, Oxford, from 1924 to 1927.


Cole, Hugh Gaitskell became a socialist and wrote a long essay on Chartism, arguing that the working class needed middle class leadership.


Hugh Gaitskell, unusually, supported the strikers and acted as a driver for people like his Oxford contemporary Evan Durbin and Cole's wife Margaret, who made speeches and delivered the trade union newspaper British Worker.


Hugh Gaitskell graduated with a first-class degree in Philosophy, politics and economics in 1927.


Hugh Gaitskell was selected as Labour candidate for Chatham in autumn 1932.


Hugh Gaitskell moved to University College London in the early 1930s at the invitation of Noel Hall.


In 1934 Hugh Gaitskell was in Vienna on a Rockefeller scholarship.


Hugh Gaitskell became head of the Department of Political Economy at UCL when Hall was appointed Director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research in 1938, jointly with Paul Rosenstein-Rodan.


Hugh Gaitskell opposed the appeasement of Nazi Germany and supported rearmament.


Whilst a WEA lecturer in the late 1920s Hugh Gaitskell lived for a time with a local woman in Nottinghamshire.


Dora Hugh Gaitskell became a Labour life peer one year following her husband's death, and died in 1989.


Hugh Gaitskell had a long-term affair in the 1950s with the socialite Ann Fleming, the wife of James Bond creator Ian Fleming.


Hugh Gaitskell was a member of the Steering Committee of the Bilderberg Group.


Dalton liked to shout at his subordinates; Hugh Gaitskell sometimes shouted back.


In March 1945 Hugh Gaitskell suffered a coronary thrombosis brought on by overwork.


Hugh Gaitskell was approached to return to UCL as a Professor after the war, but he disliked the constant state of flux of academic economics and the increasing emphasis on mathematics, a subject of which he had little knowledge.


Hugh Gaitskell was elected Labour Member of Parliament for Leeds South in the Labour landslide victory of 1945.


Hugh Gaitskell was given his first ministerial appointment in May 1946 as Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Fuel and Power, serving under Emmanuel "Manny" Shinwell.


The job initially been earmarked for Harold Wilson, with Hugh Gaitskell pencilled in to succeed Wilson as Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Works.


Hugh Gaitskell played an important role steering the Coal Nationalisation Bill through the House of Commons, bearing the brunt of the committee stage and winding up the final debate.


On 7 October 1947 Hugh Gaitskell was promoted to Minister of Fuel and Power in Shinwell's place.


Hugh Gaitskell was not made a member of the Cabinet, although he often attended Cabinet meetings when his input was required.


Hugh Gaitskell made himself very unpopular by abolishing the basic petrol ration for private motorists, but encouraged the building of oil refineries, a move little-noticed at the time which would have important repercussions for the future.


In early July 1949 Hugh Gaitskell shared Chancellor of the Exchequer Stafford Cripps' worries that Treasury officials were too "liberal" and too reluctant to implement socialist measures.


Hugh Gaitskell soon emerged as the leader of the group, the others being Harold Wilson, President of the Board of Trade, and Douglas Jay, Economic Secretary to the Treasury.


Hugh Gaitskell argued that with employment high, the balance of payments in decent shape and inflation a containable problem, the only problem was shortage of dollars, with US opinion very reluctant to help the UK any more.


Dell argues that Hugh Gaitskell's memo was full of the impatience of a young man at his elders clinging to office, but that on the other hand he himself had been slow to recognise the need for devaluation.


Hugh Gaitskell initially been suspicious of devaluation because it was a price mechanism, but earned the admiration of Robert Hall over this crisis.


Hugh Gaitskell accepted the need for spending cuts to help make devaluation work and keep to keep the Americans happy, and thought former chancellor Dalton "rather dishonest" for arguing at the Economic Policy Committee that cuts were not necessary.


In January 1950 Hugh Gaitskell submitted a paper called "Control and Liberalisation" to the Economic Policy Committee, which he was sometimes invited to attend.


Hugh Gaitskell was opposed to the convertibility of currencies and non-discrimination between trading partners, both policies which the US favoured.


Hugh Gaitskell was made a full member of the Economic Policy Committee.


Early in 1950 Cripps backed off from a plan to introduce further charges, this time on false teeth and spectacles, after Bevan threatened to resign, but Hugh Gaitskell was put on a committee to monitor Bevan's agreement to a ceiling on NHS spending.


Hugh Gaitskell thought balance of payments problems should be solved not by realignments of currencies but by asking surplus countries like the US and Belgium to inflate their economies.


Hugh Gaitskell was attacked for this by the US Secretary of the Treasury John Wesley Snyder and Camille Gutt.


Dell argues that Hugh Gaitskell did not realise that other countries had their own domestic problems.


In September 1950, with Britain's balance of payments now in surplus, Hugh Gaitskell negotiated British membership of the European Payments Union, meaning that instead of bilateral clearing, European currencies were to be convertible against one another even if not against the US dollar.


Until then Hugh Gaitskell had shared concerns that some countries might stay in permanent deficit and thus effectively use their neighbours for free borrowing, or conversely that Belgium's surplus would enable her to suck gold and dollars from Britain.


Hugh Gaitskell attempted to resign in the summer but was dissuaded by Gaitskell and Plowden because of the outbreak of the Korean War.


Hugh Gaitskell instead went on a long holiday, leaving Gaitskell in charge.


Hugh Gaitskell visited Washington in October 1950, his first visit there, just before becoming Chancellor.


Hugh Gaitskell warned that the terms of trade were shifting against Britain, and of the costs of rearmament.


Hugh Gaitskell was appointed at the young age of 44, especially unusual as most of Attlee's Cabinet were in their sixties or older.


Hugh Gaitskell became the Chancellor with the shortest Parliamentary apprenticeship since Pitt the Younger in 1782.


Bevan was furious at Hugh Gaitskell being promoted over him, even though, as Hugh Gaitskell correctly guessed in his diary, he probably did not want the job himself.


Hugh Gaitskell recorded that Bevan often asserted that Cripps had promised him the Exchequer.


On his appointment, Hugh Gaitskell told William Armstrong, his Principal Private Secretary, that the main job over next few years would be the redistribution of wealth.


Rab Butler and Samuel Brittan, both writing in the early 1970s, commented that Hugh Gaitskell was the most technically qualified chancellor of the 20th century up until that date.


In December 1950, Hugh Gaitskell rejected the advice of Kim Cobbold and Hall that interest rates be raised, calling such a policy "completely antiquated".


Hugh Gaitskell welcomed the changes as reducing an obstacle to economies in health spending.


Hugh Gaitskell still favoured discrimination in favour of sterling trade and was opposed to sterling convertibility, but was now a lot more pro-American since his October 1950 visit to Washington.


Hugh Gaitskell made the controversial decision to introduce charges for prescription glasses and dentures on the National Health Service in his spring 1951 budget.


Besides taxing the better off and protecting pensions, Hugh Gaitskell actually increased NHS spending.


Hugh Gaitskell was prepared to offer a delay in the introduction of charges but rejected the Tomlinson formula, despite Attlee's urgings, as the ceiling could not be achieved without charges.


Hugh Gaitskell warned the Economic Policy Committee of the shortage of machine tools, and stated that some could be imported from the US but that this would weaken the balance of payments.


Hugh Gaitskell was determined that there would not be an open-ended commitment to welfare spending at the expense of economic investment or rearmament, and rejected Morrison's proposal.


At the second meeting, Hugh Gaitskell threatened to resign, but quietly and without a public fuss, if he did not have the backing of the Cabinet; the resignation of the Chancellor on the eve of the budget would have caused a political crisis.


Hugh Gaitskell won the admiration of Treasury officials for his stance: on the morning of the budget Sir Edward Bridges came to tell him of the respect he had earned in the department and that it was "the best day we have had in the Treasury for ten years".


Hugh Gaitskell recorded that Bridges, Plowden, Leslie and Armstrong were all urging him to stand firm and that he was "overcome with emotion" at Armstrong's words.


However, Bevan soon rejected Hugh Gaitskell's proposed compromise that it be announced that the health charges were not be permanent as "a bromide".


Hugh Gaitskell said it was still too early to tell if the rearmament programme was actually achievable.


Benn commented after the meeting on how Hugh Gaitskell's greatness arose from his combination of "intellectual ability and political forcefulness".


Edmund Dell argues that neither Bevan nor Hugh Gaitskell emerge with much credit from the affair.


Hugh Gaitskell saw himself as defending the country and wanted to prove Labour a "responsible party of government", but the public were not yet aware of the looming inflation problem.


Hugh Gaitskell believed that Labour had to be seen to govern with fiscal responsibility, telling Dalton on 4 May 1951 that he and Bevan were engaged in a battle for the soul of the Labour Party, and that if Bevan won Labour would be out for many years.


Hugh Gaitskell again rejected Treasury advice to raise interest rates to cool the economy in June, July and August 1951.


Hugh Gaitskell argued that higher interest rates would be perceived as generating profits for the banks, which would not sit well with trade unions, and he was only prepared to consider demanding that the banks restrict credit.


Hugh Gaitskell stated that he and Morrison thought that Attlee had been too weak in dealing with Bevan.


Hugh Gaitskell visited Washington in the autumn of 1951, where he thought US Treasury Secretary John Wesley Snyder "a pretty small-minded, small town, semi-isolationist".


Hugh Gaitskell was horrified by Attlee's calling an election when he and Morrison were in North America.


Dalton recorded that Hugh Gaitskell was, behind the scenes, keen for a showdown with Bevan.


Bevan at this time thought that Hugh Gaitskell should be reduced to "a junior clerk" in the next Labour Government.


On 1 August 1952, when Hugh Gaitskell had succeeded in putting Churchill on the ropes in a House of Commons debate, Bevan intervened to attack Hugh Gaitskell, an event greeted with Tory relief and according to Crossman "icy silence" on the Labour benches.


Veteran right-wingers such as Herbert Morrison and Hugh Gaitskell Dalton were voted off, with Jim Griffiths in sixth place the only member of the Old Guard to survive; Shinwell, who as Minister of Defence was seen as responsible for the rearmament programme, had been voted off the previous year.


Hugh Gaitskell claimed that Labour was threatened by "mob rule" got up by "frustrated journalists".


Hugh Gaitskell received strong backing from the TGWU whose block vote was of immense importance at the Labour Conference and which was able to exert pressure on its sponsored MPs to toe the party line.


On one occasion in 1953, when Hugh Gaitskell called for unity at a Shadow Cabinet meeting, Bevan was observed to give him "a glare of concentrated hatred" and declared: "You're too young in the movement to know what you're talking about".


Hugh Gaitskell was widely and probably wrongly thought to be referring to Gaitskell, to whom the label stuck.


In fact it may well have been aimed at Attlee who had the previous day warned against "emotionalism" whilst privately Bevan thought that Hugh Gaitskell was highly emotional and, as he had shown in 1951, "couldn't count".


However, Hugh Gaitskell told an audience at Doncaster that Bevan had made "a direct challenge to the elected Leader of our Party" and accused him of not being a team player.


At a party meeting a few days later Bevan accused Hugh Gaitskell of having told a direct lie against him and declared that it was "those hatchet-faced men sitting on the platform" who were undermining the leadership.


Hugh Gaitskell felt he had to follow the lead of the unions and pushed for Bevan's expulsion, telling Crossman that Ian Mikardo was running a Bevanite organisation in the constituency parties to make Bevan leader.


Hugh Gaitskell thought the need to move against Bevan "dirty work".


In Tribune on 21 June 1955 Hugh Gaitskell poured scorn on the idea that more left-wing policies would have won Labour more votes.


At the Margate conference that autumn Hugh Gaitskell gave a stirring and well-received speech including an apparently unscripted passage stressing his own socialist credentials and arguing that nationalisation was still a "vital means" to achieving that end.


In October 1955 Hugh Gaitskell was re-elected Party Treasurer by a wider margin over Bevan than the previous year.


Hugh Gaitskell comfortably defeated Bevan in the party leadership contest.


Chuter Ede described the leadership election as "the political funeral of two of the greatest publicity mongers I've ever known," adding that Hugh Gaitskell had never actively sought publicity.


Hugh Gaitskell told a friend that "The leadership came to me so early because Bevan threw it at me by his behaviour", a view shared by Attlee and Harold Wilson.


Hugh Gaitskell was very inexperienced for a party leader by the standards of the time.


Hugh Gaitskell offered Bevan a public olive branch at the party meeting after the result, promising that he would "not be outdone in generosity" if Bevan accepted the vote.


Hugh Gaitskell initially told the Prime Minister, Sir Anthony Eden, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer Harold Macmillan at a dinner with King Faisal II of Iraq on 26 July 1956, that they would have the support of public opinion for the use of military action against Nasser, but warned Eden that he must act quickly and would have to keep the Americans closely informed.


Hugh Gaitskell's position became more cautious during the summer, and he suggested the dispute with Egypt should be referred to the United Nations.


Hugh Gaitskell had believed Eden's assurances that he had no intention of using force.


Hugh Gaitskell passionately condemned the eventual Anglo-French military intervention to secure the Suez Canal, supposedly launched to enforce international law and to separate the Egyptian and Israeli combatants; the Israeli attack had in fact been launched in collusion with the British and French to supply a pretext for the invasion.


On 4 November 1956 Hugh Gaitskell gave a powerful broadcast, attacking the Prime Minister now it was clear Eden had been lying to him in private.


Hugh Gaitskell was accused by the Conservatives of trying to appeal to the Labour Left, and of betrayal.


At the time Hugh Gaitskell was much-criticised in the press, especially for his ill-judged and unsuccessful plea for Tory dissidents to remove Eden from power.


Crossman noted that this forced Bevan to be loyal to Hugh Gaitskell, making the two men allies of a kind.


Hugh Gaitskell initially believed nationalisation to be both morally right and economically efficient, and hoped in vain that manager-worker relations would be transformed.


Hugh Gaitskell still supported physical controls and his views were a little to the left of those expressed by Anthony Crosland in "The Future of Socialism".


At Newcastle, with a General Election clearly imminent, Hugh Gaitskell pledged that Labour's spending plans would not require him to raise income tax, for which he was attacked by the Tories for supposed irresponsibility.


Hugh Gaitskell told Crossman that Bevan simply wanted to succeed Jim Griffiths as deputy leader and had shown no inclination to resist moderate policies.


The November 1959 Conference, postponed because of the election, was already divided by rumours that Hugh Gaitskell was planning action over Clause IV.


Hugh Gaitskell did not rule out further nationalisation, but saw it as a means to an end, pouring scorn on the idea that Labour should be committed to nationalising "the whole of light industry, the whole of agriculture, all the shops, every little pub and garage".


Hugh Gaitskell argued that according to the principles of Euclid if two things are equal to a third thing they must both be equal to one another, and so there could not be any real difference between Castle and Gaitskell.


Hugh Gaitskell took on Frank Cousins and wanted to show that Labour were a party of government, not just of opposition.


Hugh Gaitskell roused his supporters by promising to "Fight and Fight and Fight Again" to reverse the decision.


Hugh Gaitskell was challenged unsuccessfully for the leadership by Harold Wilson in November 1960.


Hugh Gaitskell was again challenged unsuccessfully for the Labour leadership in November 1961, this time by Anthony Greenwood.


Hugh Gaitskell alienated some of his supporters by his opposition to British membership of the European Economic Community, which Conservative Prime Minister Macmillan had been seeking since July 1961.


In mid-December 1962, Hugh Gaitskell fell ill with flu, but he was declared well enough by his doctor to travel to the Soviet Union, where he met the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev for talks.


Hugh Gaitskell had died from complications following a sudden flare-up of lupus, an autoimmune disease which had affected his heart and kidneys.


Hugh Gaitskell's ashes are buried in the churchyard of St John-at-Hampstead Church, north London.


Hugh Gaitskell's wife died in 1989 and was buried alongside him.


The shock of Hugh Gaitskell's death was comparable to that of the sudden death of the later Labour Party leader John Smith, in May 1994, when he too seemed to be on the threshold of 10 Downing Street.


Hugh Gaitskell appears to have largely ignored this sum of capital, and his wife had no idea of his wealth.


Hugh Gaitskell's death left an opening for Harold Wilson in the party leadership; Wilson narrowly won the next general election for Labour 21 months later.


The abrupt and unexpected nature of Hugh Gaitskell's death led to some speculation that foul play might have been involved.


Hugh Gaitskell was adored by followers like Roy Jenkins, who thought him a beacon of hope, decency and integrity, especially as Wilson's government came more and more to seem one of shabby compromises.


Tony Benn contrasted Hugh Gaitskell's stand on the Suez Crisis to that of the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair on the war in Iraq.


Hugh Gaitskell's socialism was, in Campbell's view, that of a public servant wanting to see the world more rationally governed.


Hugh Gaitskell, although no Marxist, was a sincere socialist but nonetheless was in some respects the first "moderniser" who saw how Labour would have to adapt to survive.


Hugh Gaitskell is regarded by some as "the best Prime Minister we never had".


Hugh Gaitskell was not, in Brivati's view, a "progressive" in any modern sense.


Hugh Gaitskell favoured equality and thought the free market wasteful.


Hugh Gaitskell wanted to incorporate Liberal opinion within the Labour vote.


Hugh Gaitskell's name appears in popular culture from time to time.


For example, 'Hugh Gaitskell House' is the building Nicholas Lyndhurst's character Garry Sparrow is looking for in Goodnight Sweetheart when he first stumbles into Second World War London.


Hugh Gaitskell was buried in Hampstead, and a memorial plaque to his name is prominently placed in the cloisters of New College, Oxford.