The best Prime Minister Britain never had...
Hugh Gaitskell was the original Labour moderniser, political mentor of the SDP, and the revisionist politician who fought to make Labour electable in the 1950s and early 1960s. His speeches in opposition, trying to end Clause IV, scatter CND and fight the EEC, were reminiscent of the modernising agenda of Tony Blair. However, an early death, in 1963, meant that Gaitskell's legacy is 'the best Prime Minister Britain never had'.
Gaitskell was a passionate rationalist, with a grey public persona, yet at the same time a charming, loving and funny man in his private life. This dry-as-dust Wykehamist was able to deliver some of the most emotionally charged speeches by a Labour leader in the post-war period.
Hugh Gaitskell was deeply rooted in Labour and committed to its future as an independent political entity. He did not believe that it was necessary to destroy the party in order to reform it, and so his modernising agenda is one that has been followed by Neil Kinnock, John Smith and possibly by Gordon Brown.
Dr. Brian Brivati is Senior Lecturer in Modern History at Kingston University. He is a successful author and his book, The End of Decline, is also published by Politico's.