Hugh Gaitskell - Leader of the Labour Party

Hugh Gaitskell - Leader of the Labour Party

Hugh Gaitskell - Leader of the Labour Party
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Hugh Gaitskell was born in 1906 and became a politician. His sudden death robbed him of the opportunity to become British Prime Minister.

The young Hugh Gaitskell had shown a high level of academic ability and therefore received a sound education. After finishing university he become involved in national politics and then became committed to achieving social reforms combined with a universal social security system. 

Gaitskell spent a dozen years or so as an economics lecturer before working for the British government during the Second World War. He prepared to stand for Parliament as the general election due in 1940 was postponed due to the war.

Gaitskell became the MP for Leeds South when the unexpectedly huge swing to Labour made Clement Atlee Prime Minister in May 1945. It did not take long for him to join the government as he was given responsibility for fuel and power generation between 1947 and 1950. He was promoted to the cabinet as Chancellor of the Exchequer after Labour's narrow victory in 1950. He incurred the wrath of Labour's left wing by introducing prescription charges into the NHS as the service struggled to have enough funds just four years after it was set up.  

Defeat in the 1951 general election weakened the leadership of Atlee although Gaitskell did not become leader until 1955.

His efforts to regain power were he argued hampered by the unwillingness of the party to modernise itself. He had failed most notably to remove Clause IV of the party constitution.  

It was the lethargy of the Conservative government and the Profumo affair that made a Labour victory in 1964 highly likely yet Gaitskell's unexpected premature death in 1963 meant it was fellow Yorkshire man Harold Wilson who became Prime Minister with a narrow election victory.
 
Bibliography

Childs D (1979) Britain since 1945- a political history,1979,Tonbridge printers limited,Great Britain
Hattersley R (1997) Fifty Years On, Abacus, London
Palmowski J (2008) Oxford Dictionary of Contemporary World History, Oxford


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