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Philip Snowden: The First Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer

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So far what Nasser has done amounts to a threat, a grave threat to us and to others, which certainly cannot be ignored; but it is only a threat, not in my opinion justifying retaliation by war.

It was now becoming clear that the US Congress was reluctant to help Britain meet the cost of rearmament.Upon Ramsay MacDonald's appointment as Prime Minister in January 1924, Snowden was appointed as the Labour Party's first ever Chancellor of the Exchequer [7] and sworn of the Privy Council. Gaitskell was educated at the Dragon School from 1912 to 1919, where he was a friend of the future poet John Betjeman. On 4 January 1963 he was admitted to Middlesex Hospital in Marylebone, where, despite enormous efforts by doctors to save his life, he died on 18 January, with his wife at his bedside.

In a speech to the party conference in October 1962, Gaitskell argued that if the aim was for Britain to participate in a Federal Europe, this would mean "the end of Britain as an independent European state, the end of a thousand years of history! In early July 1949 Gaitskell shared Chancellor of the Exchequer Stafford Cripps' worries that Treasury officials were too "liberal" and too reluctant to implement socialist measures. At Newcastle, with a general election clearly imminent, Gaitskell pledged that Labour's spending plans would not require him to raise income tax, for which he was attacked by the Tories for supposed irresponsibility. The Shadow Cabinet elections (elected by Labour MPs when the party was in opposition) were topped by Jim Griffiths and Chuter Ede. He argued that according to the principles of Euclid if two things are equal to a third thing they must both be equal to one another, and so there could not be any real difference between Castle and Gaitskell.

Robert Skidelsky is representative of the Keynesians who have charged that Snowden and MacDonald were blinded by their economic philosophy that required balanced budgets, sound money, the gold standard and free trade, regardless of the damage that Keynesians thought it would do to the economy and the people. The Blackpool Conference of October 1961 saw a narrow conference vote in favour of multilateral disarmament. Gaitskell was elected Labour Member of Parliament (MP) for Leeds South in the Labour landslide victory of 1945.

The defence budget was to increase from 8% to 14% of GNP, a proportion exceeded only by the US amongst NATO members.Gaitskell thought balance of payments problems should be solved not by realignments of currencies but by asking surplus countries like the US and Belgium to inflate their economies (so they would import more). In November 1949, with the high level of public spending already a problem and under pressure from Cripps, Bevan had pushed an act through Parliament granting the government the power to impose prescription charges, although they were not brought in just yet (Cripps had wanted 1 shilling per prescription, but Bevan had not agreed to this).

Bevan stood against Gaitskell for Party Treasurer, knowing he would likely lose but hoping to discredit union bosses Arthur Deakin and Tom Williamson in the eyes of rank-and-file trade union members. Soon after his promotion he recorded that he often had to stiffen up Cripps, who was not as tough as his public image would suggest, to make sure he did not make too many concessions in negotiations with colleagues. The abrupt and unexpected nature of Gaitskell's death led to some speculation that foul play might have been involved.

The shock of Gaitskell's death was comparable to that of the sudden death of the later Labour Party leader John Smith, in May 1994, when he too seemed to be on the threshold of 10 Downing Street. The Conservatives increased their majority, a fact partly attributable to the post-war prosperity that Britain was now experiencing. If, of course, the whole matter were to be taken to the United Nations and if Egypt were to be condemned by them as aggressors, then, of course, the position would be different. By August–September 1951 the Treasury were taken by surprise by a full-on sterling crisis, which they passed on to the incoming Conservative Government.

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