Childhood & Early Life
Hugh Gaitskell was born Hugh Todd Naylor Gaitskell, on April 9, 1906, to Adelaide Mary and Arthur Gaitskell.
Between 1912 and 1919, he attended the 'Dragon School' in Oxford, England, and from 1919 to 1924, he was educated at 'Winchester College,' in Winchester, Hampshire, England.
In 1924, he joined 'New College' in Oxford.
Influenced by his tutor G.D.H. Cole, he became a socialist. He authored a lengthy essay on “Chartism,” the working-class male suffrage political reform movement in Britain that lasted from 1838 to 1857.
He had his first stint with political activism in 1926, when he supported the strikers in the 1926 general strike.
In 1927, he graduated with a first-class degree in philosophy, politics, and economics.
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Immediately after his graduation, he began teaching at the 'Workers' Educational Association’ (WEA) in Nottinghamshire, England. He taught there until 1928.
In 1928, an essay written by him was released as a ‘WEA’ booklet.
Gaitskell assisted in managing the affairs of the 'New Fabian Research Bureau,' which was established in March 1931.
The 'Labour Party' chose him as their representative for the Chatham parliamentary consistency in Kent, England, in 1932
In the early 1930s, he accepted the invitation of Noel Hall and joined 'University College London’ (UCL).
In 1934, he became a member of the ‘XYZ Club,’ a club for 'Labour' financial experts.
He earned the 'Rockefeller Scholarship' and went to Vienna, Austria, in 1934. He was associated with the 'University of Vienna.' During his stay, he closely observed the erstwhile Austrian chancellor, Engelbert Dollfuss, and his conservative government’s efforts to suppress the social workers' movement. The series of incidents he witnessed there created a profound impact on him, which reformed his political ideologies. He became averse to conservatism and also accepted that Marxian philosophy was not a viable solution to the issues. This made him adopt Socialist Revisionism.
In 1935, he lost the general elections as the 'Labour Party' representative from Chatham.
In 1937, he assisted in drafting the “Labour's Immediate Programme.” With Dalton's support, he became the 'Labour' representative of South Leeds the same year.
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The following year, he was appointed as the joint head of the 'Department of Political Economy' at ‘UCL,’ along with Paul Rosenstein-Rodan.
After World War II began, Gaitskell assisted Hall and Dalton in the capacity of a civil servant for the 'Ministry of Economic Warfare.' More than a year later, both Gaitskell and Dalton were transferred to the 'Board of Trade.' In recognition of his contribution, he was honored with the title of the ‘Commander of the Order of the British Empire' in 1945.
In 1945, he won the election from Leeds South and became a 'Labour’ MP.
He supported Dalton's nationalization of the 'Bank of England,' which was granted the “Royal Assent” on February 14, 1946.
He was chosen by Emmanuel "Manny" Shinwell to work with him as the 'Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Fuel and Power.'
He played a vital role in enforcing the 'Coal Industry Nationalization Act of 1946.' He rescued the country from the fuel crisis in early 1947. He also made a significant contribution to enforce the 'Electricity Act 1947.'
He was elevated to the post of the 'Minister of Fuel and Power' on October 7, 1947. However, by withdrawing the basic petrol ration for private motorists, he lost public support. He supported the construction of oil refineries, which helped him in the long run.
On July 18, 1949, Atlee placed himself in charge of the ‘Treasury,’ with Gaitskell, Harold Wilson, and Douglas Jay assisting him, as the 'Chancellor of the Exchequer’ Stafford Cripps was taken severely ill.
Gaitskell's proposal to devaluate the Pound Sterling was accepted by the cabinet in a discreet meeting.
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He was made the 'Minister for Economic Afairs' after both he and the party were re-elected to power in 1950. The defense budget was raised during his tenure.
In October 1950, he became one of the youngest ‘Chancellors of the Exchequer’ and served for a little more than a year. In his budget, he introduced the 'National Health Service,' which increased the charges of dental and opthalmological treatments.
From October 1951 to December 1955, he was made the 'Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer.'
In 1955, he defeated Bevan and Herbert Morrison to become the leader of the party. The same year, he was also appointed as the ‘Leader of the Opposition.’
During this period, he played a significant role in the 'Suez Crisis.'
His policy of nationalism and political and economic philosophies came to be known as “Gaitskellism.” However, due to his evolving political and economic stands, he fell out of favor with trade unionists, who had been his staunch supporters earlier.
In 1959, under his leadership, the party lost the general elections. After the defeat, he tried to introduce reforms in the party and work toward amending 'Labour's Clause IV.'
In 1961, he opposed the move to join the 'European Economic Community.'
Family, Personal Life, & Death
On April 9, 1937, he married Mrs. Dora Frost, a divorcee.
They had two daughters, Julia and Cressida, born in 1939 and 1942, respectively. Dora had a son named Raymond Frost from her previous marriage.
During the 1950s, Gaitskell and Ann Fleming, the wife of the creator of 'James Bond,' Ian Fleming, had a long-term affair.
He died on January 18, 1963, due to a viral attack and flu, complicated by severe lupus, an auto-immune disease. He was 56 at the time of his death.
His final resting place is at the cemetery of the ‘St. John-at-Hampstead Church,’ London. His wife was buried beside him after her death in 1989.