Leeds MPs

GAITSKELL, Rt Hon Hugh Todd Naylor (1906–1963) Labour.

He joined the Labour Party during the General Strike of 1926 and in 1935 he stood unsuccessfully in the general election for Chatham. Having gained a first at Oxford for Philosophy, Politics and Economics, it was not surprising when World War II commenced, he was appointed principal private secretary to Hugh Dalton at the Ministry of Economic Warfare. In 1945 he was victorious in Leeds South in the Labour landside of that year. He successfully defended the seat in 1950, 1951, 1955 and 1559. He became Minister of Fuel and Power in 1947, and Minister for Economic Affairs in 1950. When appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer in October that year, he introduced charges for spectacles and dentures to pay for rearmament and saw Aneurin Bevan and Harold Wilson resign from the Government in protest. In 1955 he became Leader of the Labour Party and thus Leader of the Opposition. His attempts to modernise the party were rejected and he was famously defeated over his opposition to unilateral nuclear disarmament at Scarborough in 1960. However, in 1961 Gaitskell’s policy was accepted. His unexpected death led to fears that the KGB may have been involved in it but no proof was ever forthcoming. For further reading see The Times, 19 January 1963; P. M. Williams, Hugh Gaitskell: A Political Biography (1979).