Hugh Todd Naylor Gaitskell (9 April 1906 – 18 January 1963) was a British politician and Leader of the Labour Party.
An economics lecturer and wartime civil servant, he was elected to Parliament in 1945 and held office in Clement Attlee's governments, notably as Minister of Fuel and Power after the bitter winter of 1946–47, and eventually joining the Cabinet as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Facing the need to increase military spending in 1951, he imposed National Health Service charges on dentures and spectacles, prompting the leading left-winger Aneurin Bevan to resign from the Cabinet.
The perceived similarity in his outlook to that of his Conservative Party counterpart Rab Butler was dubbed "Butskellism", initially a satirical term, after an elision of their names, and was one aspect of the post-war consensus through which the major parties largely agreed on the main points of domestic and foreign policy until the 1970s.
With Labour in opposition from 1951, Gaitskell won bitter leadership battles with Bevan and his supporters to become the Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition in 1955.
In 1956 he opposed the Eden government's use of military force at Suez.
Against a backdrop of a booming economy he led Labour to its third successive defeat at the 1959 general election.
In the late 1950s, in the teeth of opposition from the major trade unions, he attempted in vain to remove Clause IV of the Labour Party Constitution, which committed Labour to nationalisation of all the means of production.
He did not reject public ownership altogether, but also emphasised the ethical goals of liberty, social welfare and above all equality, and argued that they could be achieved by fiscal and social policies within a mixed economy.
His revisionist views, on the right wing of the Labour Party, were sometimes called Gaitskellism.
Despite this setback, Gaitskell reversed an attempt to adopt unilateral nuclear disarmament as Labour Party policy, and opposed Prime Minister Harold Macmillan's attempt to lead the UK into the European Common Market.
He was loved and hated for his confrontational leadership and brutal frankness.
He died suddenly in 1963, when he appeared to be on the verge of leading Labour back into power and becoming the next Prime Minister.
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