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Philip Snowden: The First Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer

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This event made a lasting impression, making him profoundly hostile to conservatism but also making him reject as futile the Marxian outlook of many European social democrats. Bevan was observed to be watching the speech "red-faced and furious" and complaining of Gaitskell's "sheer demagogy". This was loudly condemned by Bevan's wife Jennie Lee and by Michael Foot, editor of Tribune but out of Parliament at the time. He worked for the Independent Labour Party and was twice chairman of the party, from 1903 to 1906 and later from 1917 to 1920. The Gaitskells had a long family connection with the Indian Army, and he spent his childhood in Burma.

However, only the first of these measures was realized during the first Labour Government's time in office. Gaitskell still favoured discrimination in favour of sterling trade and was opposed to sterling convertibility, but was now a lot more pro-American since his October 1950 visit to Washington. 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).

Gaitskell passionately condemned the eventual Anglo-French military intervention to secure the Suez Canal, supposedly launched to enforce international law and to separate the Egyptian and Israeli combatants; the Israeli attack had in fact been launched in collusion with the British and French to supply a pretext for the invasion. As a backbencher, he spoke in debates in support of Dalton's nationalisation of the Bank of England, which eventually received Royal Assent on 14 February 1946. Dalton was trying to score party points by claiming that he was reasserting political control over the City of London, a far-fetched claim as the Bank was already under political control. Gaitskell made himself very unpopular by abolishing the basic petrol ration for private motorists, but encouraged the building of oil refineries, a move little-noticed at the time which would have important repercussions for the future.

Gaitskell appears to have largely ignored this sum of capital, and his wife had no idea of his wealth. Britain still preferred to encourage trade in pounds sterling within the Commonwealth, and Gaitskell wanted to preserve Britain's ability to avoid downturns like the US downturn of 1948–9, which Britain had largely escaped because of devaluation. At the October 1960 Scarborough Conference two resolutions in favour of unilateral disarmament – proposed by the TGWU and the Engineers' Union – were carried, whilst the official policy document on defence was rejected. The election had also seen the election of the first three female Labour MPs: Margaret Bondfield, Dorothy Jewson and Susan Lawrence. Although not entirely opposed in principle to British entry, he believed that the EEC was resistant to reform and that membership would hurt Britain's relations with the Commonwealth.

On 1 August 1952, when Gaitskell had succeeded in putting Churchill (Prime Minister at the time) on the ropes in a House of Commons debate, Bevan intervened to attack Gaitskell, an event greeted with Tory relief and according to Crossman "icy silence" on the Labour benches. Although his parents and sisters were involved in weaving at the Ickornshaw Mill, he did not join them; after attending a local board school (where he received additional lessons in French and Latin from the schoolmaster) he stayed on as a pupil-teacher. He was the first Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, a position he held in 1924 and again between 1929 and 1931. Prime Minister Attlee's initial reaction to the draft budget was that there were not likely to be many votes in it – Gaitskell replied that he could not expect votes in a rearmament year.

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