Hugh Gaitskell by Philip Williams - review by David Owen

David Owen

Hugh Gaitskell

Hugh Gaitskell

By

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Hugh Gaitskell’s words to the October 1960 Conference stimulated me to be an active member of the Labour Party and shook me out of the complacency of armchair socialism. I can still remember watching his speech on television while a medical student at St Thomas’ Hospital. The words personify the man and give some sense of the impact of that speech:

Supposing all of us like well-behaved sheep were to follow the policies of unilateralism and neutralism, what kind of impression would that make upon the British people? I do not believe that Labour Members of Parliament are prepared to act as time servers. There are some of us, Mr Chairman, who will fight and fight again to save the Party we love. We will fight and fight and fight again to bring back sanity and honesty and dignity, so that our Party with its great past may retain its glory and its greatness.

It is one of the tragedies of our time that this man was not given the opportunity as Prime Minister to avert our economic decline.

I never met Hugh Gaitskell. My political life only started as a prospective candidate a few months before he died, but having read this detailed and scholarly biography I have no doubt that he had the personality and authority to have radically changed the course of British history. There can

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