Monday, January 21, 2013

Hugh Gaitskell - Fifty Years On

This weekend saw the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Hugh Gaitskell, Chancellor of the Exchequer in the last year of Attlee's government, leader of the Labour Party, instinctive Social Democrat and Fabian, and perhaps one of the best Labour leaders we never had.
Many of us on the Right of the Labour Party admire Gaitskell and owe him a debt. Before Blair, this man showed to many that you could be both Labour and hold centrist policies that sometimes involved accepting and even embracing a degree of free enterprise. Gaitskell was one of a no of politicians in the Twentieth Century in both Conservative and Labour Parties who was neither impressed entirely with free market philosophy as espoused by Friedman, or indeed the hardline neo marxist widescale nationalisation policies that some on the hard left espoused.
Would Gaitskell have been Prime Minister and a good one if he had lived? The honest answer is we shall never know, but as Professor Brian Brivati mentioned in the Dictionary, he would have been unable to effectively attack the Macmillan government over the Profumo affair (given his affair with Ann Fleming) and he would have possibly have not been able to keep us out of Vietnam as Wilson did, and for that maybe Wilson was the better Labour Prime Minister, but he did show resolve and tenacity and a way of espousing a form of Social Democracy that inspired politicians like Crosland, Healey, and Jenkins, who in turn inspired the likes of Hattersley, Owen, and Smith, and who in turn helped inspire Blair and Brown.

2 comments:

Tim Roll-Pickering said...

There were rumours about Wilson's private life even in 1963 weren't there? The following year Hailsham famously defused a heckle with a comment like "If you can prove there are no adulterers on the Labour frontbench, you can talk to me about Profumo!", resulting in Labour worrying about Wilson's relationship with his secretary.

Paul Burgin said...

The thing is though, there is still less grounding in allegations about Wilson, other than that I get your point