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Definition: Gaitskell, Hugh Todd Naylor from Philip's Encyclopedia

British statesman, Labour Party leader (1955-63). Gaitskell entered Parliament in 1945, joining the cabinet in 1947. In 1950, he became minister of state for economic affairs and then chancellor of the exchequer (1950-51). In the 1950 leadership elections, he led Labour's right to victory over Aneurin Bevan's challenge. In 1960, Gaitskell refused to accept the conference's decision to adopt a policy of unilateral disarmament and defeated a leadership challenge from his eventual successor Harold Wilson.

Summary Article: Gaitskell, Hugh Todd Naylor
From Chambers Biographical Dictionary


English Labour politician

Born in London, he was educated at Winchester and at New College, Oxford, becoming a socialist during the 1926 general strike. On leaving Oxford he became a Workers' Educational Association lecturer in economics in the Nottinghamshire coalfield. In 1938 he became reader in political economy at the University of London. Elected MP for Leeds South in 1945, he became parliamentary secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power in 1946 and minister in 1947. Appointed Minister of State for Economic Affairs in 1950, he became (1950-51) the youngest Chancellor of the Exchequer since Arthur Balfour. His introduction of National Health Service charges led to the resignation of Aneurin Bevan as Minister of Health and to a long feud with Bevan and the hostile left wing of the Labour Party. However, his ascendancy in the party grew steadily and in 1955 he was elected leader of the opposition by a large majority over Bevan, succeeding Clement Attlee. He bitterly opposed Anthony Eden's Suez action (1956), attempted to modify Labour policy from total nationalization to the development of a shareholder state, and refused to accept a narrow conference vote for unilateral disarmament (1960). This caused a crisis of leadership, in which he retained the loyalty of most Labour MPs. Gaitskell was also a keen European, and in his final years in office strongly supported Great Britain's entry into the EEC. He wrote Money and Everyday Life (1939).

  • Brivati, Brian Hugh Gaitskell: A Biography (1996).
© Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd 2011

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