AHC/WI - UK Labour dominated by the Gaitskellite wing of the party

In a scenario where the UK Labour party was dominated by the Labour right Gaitskellite wing of the party from the late-50s to late-60s onwards (with the Bevanite, Benn and Jenkins wings becoming marginalized and pushed out), thanks to a combination of Hugh Gaitskell removing Clause IV of the Labour Constitution after the 1959 Election Loss and living long enough to become Prime Minister as well as him or his successor implementing Barbara Castle's 1969 In Place of Strife white paper.

Which ATL Gaitskellite leaning candidates could lead the Labour party from the late-60s to mid/late-90s? Have seen names like Peter Shore (who opposed Barbara Castle's white paper) and John Smith mentioned along with George Brown, Denis Healey and Anthony Crosland though not sure whether there are additional ideologically-aligned potential Labour Leader candidates that could have become Prime Minister.
 
Last edited:
If Gaitskell lived to see the 1964 Election and managed to beat the Earl of Home, I imagine he'd cling on until 1970 and then resign or be beat by the Tory candidate (Heath or Maudling). I could see these names being the big wigs of a Gaitskellite-led Labour Party going into the next century:
- James Callaghan
- Roy Jenkins (he was pro-Europe but a Gaitskellite at his core)
- Anthony Crosland
- Denis Healey
- Shirley Williams
- Bill Rodgers
- David Owen
 
Last edited:
Shore isn't going to be a potential Gaitskellite successor; he was a man of the Tribune left rather than Gaitskell's social democrats.

Gaitskell is probably less adept at handling the factional disputes within Labour at this time, as demonstrated by OTL during his time as leader in opposition. However, Labour has a habit of avoiding infighting once in government. Jenkins would probably the first of any potential successors; he was well-positioned and well-placed as the most likely candidate to succeed Gaitskell assuming an early 1970s retirement. Crosland and Healey are other potential names but lack the same personability that Jenkins held until his resignation over Europe in 1973, a mistake that cost him a lot of supporters IOTL within the PLP. You then start to get various SDP-linked names as potential ideologically-likened leaders going forward from there; David Owen, Bill Rodgers, Shirley Williams, etc. Roy Hattersley is another one for the 1980s actually.

Of course, a lot of the names then start to blur into early New Labour years as John Smith and Gordon Brown/Tony Blair had similar ideologies, they had different methods with the latter names as the most fast-paced modernisers compared with the slow but steady Smith.
 
Even if Gaitskell pushed through Clause IV reform and won several elections in a row (which is by no means certain, Wilson only just won the 1964 Election despite being a popular leader of the opposition) I still very much doubt his wing of the party would be hegemonic for the next few decades. After all, Foot was elected less than five years after Wilson left office, and Miliband and Corbyn both won leadership elections within less than a decade of Blair leaving office.

The longer term standard bearer's of the Gaitskellite faction will probably depend on how much of an issue Europe becomes during his Premiership. If it becomes a major issue that defines his political outlook, then that favours the more eurosceptic right wingers. Healey and Callaghan both campaigned for remain in 1975, but were more undecided about it beforehand, so they could be palatable to Gaitskell supporters. There are also some lesser known right wing leavers like Eric Varley who might be more prominent in this situation. If it isn't such of an issue and Gaitskellism just comes to stand for a generally centrist outlook on politics, then that obviously helps Jenkins and Crosland, and after that, Owen, Williams, Hattersley and Smith.

One person who I think has a good chance in either situation is Douglas Jay. He was by all accounts a fairly prominent Gaitskell supporter alongside Jenkins and Crosland, but unlike them, failed to become a major figure in the party under Wilson. If Gaitskell survives, he has a decent chance of occupying a great office of state at some stage, and is a leaver to boot.
 
Have George Brown not run for leader in October 1963, allowing his support to coalesce around Callaghan.
 
In order words any Gaitskellite successors at Labour would depend on whether the UK's EEC entry is approved in 1963, 1967 or like OTL in 1973, potentially leading to internal conflict between the Anti-EEC Gaiskellite and Pro-EEC Jenkins wings of the Labour party until one side prevails.

Are there additional other Gaitskellite aligned right-leaning leaver candidates within Labour besides Doughlas Jay and Eric Varley that could have a chance to become more prominent and occupy a great office or even a position as ATL Labour leader in this scenario?

Pro-EEC =Brown (if sober or even teetotal), Jenkins, Crosland, Owen, Williams, Rodgers, Hattersley and Smith
Pro-EEC yet more undecided = Healey and Callaghan
Anti-EEC = Gaitskell himself, Jay, Varley
 
The other person who would have done much better under Gaitskell is Attlee's former PPS Geoffrey de Freitas. Very interested in foreign affairs and defence matters, he and Wilson detested each other and (as he commanded no major factional support within the Party - Wilson and Roy Mason also hated each other) he was relegated to the back benches in a shocking waste of talent. Under Gaitskell he would probably have got the Foreign Office or Defence
 
Geoffrey de Freitas's career could have possibly risen under Gaitskell, his stance on the EEC / Europe appears to align more with Roy Jenkins.
 
Last edited:
Still curious to know whether there are any additional Neutral or Anti-EEC Labour candidates that could have risen up the ranks and potentially become leader under Gaitskell.
 
In the case with Peter Shore the following quotes from his Obituary in the Guardian does suggest he could have potentially remained in an ATL Gaitskellite dominated Labour despite becoming a convert to the CND in the late-50s and later being more closely associated with Tony Benn in OTL, placing him alongside the likes of Douglas Jay and Eric Varley as Gaitskellite-leaning Anti-EEC Labour Leadership Candidates. - https://www.theguardian.com/news/2001/sep/26/guardianobituaries.obituaries

For a time, he was quite close to Hugh Gaitskell, whose high-mindedness and belief in economic intervention he shared. But in 1958, Shore became a convert to CND, which led to loss of rapport, though the relationship would be knitted up when Gaitskell made his Vimy Ridge speech against Europe in 1962.
There is a case for arguing that, despite the diminishing CND wrinkle, Shore, unlike Roy Jenkins and his friends, was the true Gaitskellite - statist and nationalist with some talent for the public platform. Yet he would be closely identified with Tony Benn. The term "Benn and Shore" was widely used, and not challenged in the mid-1970s, but, as with the Wilson connection, it was a nautical error. Benn, setting a millennial impossibilist course, and seeing Europe as a capitalist ramp, covered a particular patch of water with Shore - Anglocentric, nationalist and a Fabian/Keynesian believer in virtuous interference.
There were occasional bursts of vivacity: the comment, when the Tory government economised on a booster station for the BBC World Service, that "Nation shall murmur unto nation"; shrewd opposition to entry into the ERM "at an unsustainable rate"; and an early warning to Nigel Lawson, in 1988, of the looming economic crisis.

He had now become a rightwing figure, cluckingly approved of by Conservatives. Many of his prejudices were Margaret Thatcher's. He was devoted to Polaris and the absurdly expensive Trident; he denounced the European Social Chapter as "a road to oblivion". Indeed, after he had spoken of a "Gadarene rush to European economic, monetary and political union," the Iron Lady herself remarked that Shore was "beginning to sound more and more like me". He was made a life peer in 1997.


His career was less than the sum of his eloquent, serious-minded parts, but it contained, as between his nationalism and dirigisme, a contradiction which though honourable, came ultimately to look like a muddle.
 
Gaitskell wasn't really much of a Eurosceptic and much of the scholarship on the issue has overplayed the extent to which he was anti-EEC. In reality, he was far more worried about the issue of Europe as a factional, internal difficulty that had to be overcome. Because he couldn't force the neo-Bevanites out and because the country at-large was not fully behind Europe, the simplest thing to do was to bridge the gap by coming down on the anti-EEC side. In a world where he has properly asserted his dominance over the party on questions like nuclear disarmament and Clause IV, there's very little reason for him to manoeuvre like he did IOTL.

Also, it's probably more correct to say that Gaitskell did finally win when Wilson was elected. The 1963 leadership was effectively fought between a pure Gaitskellite and a 'Bevanite In Name Only', with Callaghan not so much representing an ideological tendency apart from other two but a consensus that the personalities at play would do more bad than good for both party unity and electoral success down the line.
 
Was of the view Wilson came with his own baggage as opposed to being a posthumous proxy for Gaitskell upon winning in 1963, how would a sober / teetotal Brown compare to Wilson?

That said quite like the idea of an ATL Gaiksellite/Jenkinite-leaning Labour whose factional battles are over the EEC (and potential token involvement in Vietnam* - albeit with some incentives* minus the OTL bad blood between LBJ and Wilson) after revolving issues over nuclear disarmament in his favour (as in OTL), removing Clause IV and later adopting In place of Strife amongst other things.

*- That could have either mitigated or butterflied away the 1967 devaluation of sterling as well as allowing the UK to pay off the Anglo-American loan to the US much earlier, reduce the UK national debt as well as (regardless of one's own personal views) allowed the government initiate various unrealised domestic infrastructure projects (e.g. Ringways Scheme, Cublington or Maplin Airport, 1968 London Transportation Study, etc).
 
I've always thought it would be pretty interesting if Gaitskell had been PM instead of Eden in the 50s. It was an interesting time in the 50s for Labour, and of course Gaitskell's approach to the whole Suez problem would have interesting repercussions.

No idea if Gaitskell had a shot at being PM that early though.

fasquardon
 
I've always thought it would be pretty interesting if Gaitskell had been PM instead of Eden in the 50s. It was an interesting time in the 50s for Labour, and of course Gaitskell's approach to the whole Suez problem would have interesting repercussions.

No idea if Gaitskell had a shot at being PM that early though.

fasquardon
Cannot say say whether it was feasible for Gaitskell to win in the 1950s, though he seemed to believe Clause IV played a role in his defeat at the 1959 UK Elections and unseccessfully attempted to amend/remove it.
 
I've always thought it would be pretty interesting if Gaitskell had been PM instead of Eden in the 50s. It was an interesting time in the 50s for Labour, and of course Gaitskell's approach to the whole Suez problem would have interesting repercussions.

No idea if Gaitskell had a shot at being PM that early though.
It's well within the realms of possibility that he could be had Labour played it's cards a little better in the early 1950s. Had they done a bit better in 1950, or Attlee waited a little longer before going to the country in 1951, they could have secured a small but workable majority that they would have every chance of holding onto throughout that decade, given the booming global economy during that time. Attlee could well make way for Gaitskell once he was confident that he would see off Morrison, as happened in opposition IOTL.
 
It's well within the realms of possibility that he could be had Labour played it's cards a little better in the early 1950s. Had they done a bit better in 1950, or Attlee waited a little longer before going to the country in 1951, they could have secured a small but workable majority that they would have every chance of holding onto throughout that decade, given the booming global economy during that time. Attlee could well make way for Gaitskell once he was confident that he would see off Morrison, as happened in opposition IOTL.
Fascinating... I get the feeling that this would lead to a 60s that was dominated by the Conservatives as well, since if Labour did run the country to the end of the 50s, people would probably be getting bored of them. That in turn could lead to Britain joining the US in Vietnam, which probably means more financial support from the US for the UK (in OTL they offered a pretty attractive deal to get some token UK involvement) and an overall much closer US/UK relationship.

fasquardon
 
it is a tough call though fascinated by the idea of Gaitskell living long enough to become PM in 1964, perhaps success would have prompted the likes of Peter Shore to recant his support of the CND (instead of later in life) in order to elevate his position within the party along with other pro/anti-EEC candidates.

One other idea for a Labour dominated decade in the 1950s would be Attlee during the 1945 Elections winning a 1950-like majority only to be defeated a year or so later by Winston Churchill, with the US being more inclined to provide significantly more post-war aid then they did in OTL (where Churchill and others had to basically pursuade the US to provide the post-war aid they did despite the Attlee government holding a large majority). Attlee is thus subsequently replaced by Hugh Gaitskell who after battles over Clause IV, etc eventually leads Labour to dominate the 1950s and thus move the party towards a Gaitskelite direction.
 
it is a tough call though fascinated by the idea of Gaitskell living long enough to become PM in 1964, perhaps success would have prompted the likes of Peter Shore to recant his support of the CND (instead of later in life) in order to elevate his position within the party along with other pro/anti-EEC candidates.

One other idea for a Labour dominated decade in the 1950s would be Attlee during the 1945 Elections winning a 1950-like majority only to be defeated a year or so later by Winston Churchill, with the US being more inclined to provide significantly more post-war aid then they did in OTL (where Churchill and others had to basically pursuade the US to provide the post-war aid they did despite the Attlee government holding a large majority). Attlee is thus subsequently replaced by Hugh Gaitskell who after battles over Clause IV, etc eventually leads Labour to dominate the 1950s and thus move the party towards a Gaitskelite direction.
Huh. A weaker Atlee government would have interesting impacts all of its own.

And yes, Gaitskell living long enough to become PM in 1964 is also really interesting. Any idea how he'd play Vietnam? My sense of him was that he was very much pro-American alliance, so I can imagine him sending troops to Vietnam.

fasquardon
 
Huh. A weaker Atlee government would have interesting impacts all of its own.

And yes, Gaitskell living long enough to become PM in 1964 is also really interesting. Any idea how he'd play Vietnam? My sense of him was that he was very much pro-American alliance, so I can imagine him sending troops to Vietnam.

fasquardon
Agreed, the increased US aid and speedier post-war recovery are a few of the things that come to mind with a weaker Attlee government,

Seems Gaitskell would have indeed likely sent a token force to Vietnam if the following article is any indication, not to mentioning him potentially having a better relationship with LBJ (compared to Wilson) and thus being more inclined to accept the latter's additional incentives when the UK was desperate for dollars (as mentioned in the quote by michael1 below).

Which would have put the UK on a better domestic / economic footing into the next decade (together with adopting Barbara Castle's 1969 In Place of Strife white paper and removing Clause IV) compared to OTL, though am interested in seeing how token British involvement in Vietnam, no Clause IV and adopting In Place of Strife would have affected the Bevanite / Bennite wing on the Labour party and whether we'd see the Bennite equivalent of an independent SDP breakaway emerge (with fractures between the remaining Gaitskellite and Jenkinsite wing over Europe potentially helping to revive the Liberals in tandem with Pro-EEC Tory breakaways). - https://isj.org.uk/when-old-labour-went-to-war/

LBJ offered to pay substantially more (certainly at least hundreds of millions of dollars and possibly billions more) than the cost of any British military force and Britain still said no even though this was at a time when Britain was desperate for dollars. The offer was in the form of additional assistance for the £ rather than directly to pay for British troops, but it still potentially involved large sums being transferred to the UK which could then be used as the UK saw fit. It never even got as far as discussing real numbers because the British just said no.
Link
 
Top