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Hugh Gaitskell

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Category: Politics
Reference No: 9929
Status: Available
Price: £65.00
  Hugh Gaitskell  Hugh Gaitskell  Hugh Gaitskell  Hugh Gaitskell

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Great Labour statesman, “the best Labour Prime Minister Britain never had.”

In the General Election of 1945 Gaitskell won the seat in Parliament for Leeds South, which he held for the remainder of his life. In the post-war government of Clement Attlee he was appointed to the positions of Minister of Fuel and Power (1947-1950), Minister of State for Economic Affairs (1950), and Chancellor of the Exchequer (1950-1951). As Chancellor he introduced charges on dentures and spectacles into the hitherto free National Health Service (famously leading to resignation of Aneurin Bevan from the Cabinet)

In 1951 the Conservative Party was returned to power, and though Gaitskell never again held governmental office, his political influence continued to grow, built on his reputation for integrity and commitment to principle. In 1955, after the resignation of Attlee, Gaitskell won the leadership of the Labour Party with a decisive victory over Herbert Morrison and Aneurin Bevan.

Gaitskell steered the Labour Party in a moderate direction from 1955 until his death in 1963. He vigorously opposed the invasion of the Suez Canal by Britain, France, and Israel in 1956. He also tried to modify the party's commitment to the nationalization of industry, as embodied in Clause Four of its constitution. After losing the General Election of October 1959 decisively to Harold Macmillan and the Conservatives, Gaitskell came under attack and the Labour Party began to divide into factions. At its annual conference at Scarborough a resolution was carried by the more radical faction led by Bevan endorsing unilateral nuclear disarmament. Gaitskell, a strong supporter of NATO, made the most famous speech of his career on this occasion, vowing to "fight and fight and fight again to save the Party we love." The following year, at Blackpool, the party reversed the disarmament resolution by an overwhelming majority and re-established Gaitskell's authority as leader. It also gave him support on the Clause Four issue. In 1962 he used this authority to affirm the party's opposition to joining the European Common Market on the terms then being offered.

While at the peak of his influence Gaitskell died suddenly in January 1963 of kidney failure following a sudden flaring of a rare autoimmune disease.

Gaitskell had an interesting private life and had a number of affairs, including one in the mid-1950s with Ann Fleming, the wife of James Bond creator, Ian Fleming (Fleming, a strange man with a strong aversion to bodily functions and abnormalities, had gone off his wife because of her abdominal scars following a Caesarean section.)

This is a very fine Dinner Menu for the 83rd Annual Supper of The Working Men's College* (13th December 1958), nicely signed in dark blue ink to the back cover by Hugh Gaitskell, a guest, and by a second guest, James Laver**. The Principal of the College, Sir Ronald Adams*** has also signed. In very good condition. RARE

* The Working Men's College is the oldest adult education college in Britain and was founded in 1854
by Christian Socialists “to provide a liberal education for Victorian skilled artisans.”

** James Laver (1899-1975)
was a  curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum between 1938 and 1959 and a pioneering fashion historian, described as "the man in England who made the study of costume respectable"

*** Sir Ronald Adam (1885-1982) was a British army officer whose career spanned both World War I and World War II.
A close confidant of Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Adam was given the task of organising the Dunkirk perimeter in late May 1941 and it was largely due to his leadership that the British Expeditionary Force was able to leave France in relatively good order.