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Philip Snowden: The First Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer

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The Campaign for Democratic Socialism was founded to promote the Gaitskellite cause – it never acquired much influence in the ranks of the trades unions, but achieved some success in promoting the selection of friendly Parliamentary candidates.

According to Michael Bloch, Gaitskell enjoyed a number of same-sex relationships while at Oxford, including with John Betjeman, and in the 1930s in Vienna, with John Gunther.

Gaitskell soon emerged as the leader of the group, the others being Harold Wilson, President of the Board of Trade, and Douglas Jay, Economic Secretary to the Treasury. Hugh Todd Naylor Gaitskell CBE (9 April 1906 – 18 January 1963) was a British politician who served as Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition from 1955 until his death in 1963. Gaitskell's position became more cautious during the summer, and he suggested the dispute with Egypt should be referred to the United Nations. Gaitskell could no longer afford to quarrel with his deputy, and he enjoyed a position of great influence as keeper of the party's conscience, similar to, but much more powerful than, the position of John Prescott relative to Tony Blair forty years later. The Blackpool Conference of October 1961 saw a narrow conference vote in favour of multilateral disarmament.

He was Chancellor of the Exchequer, the first Labour Chancellor, in the Labour Government formed by Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929. He claimed that Labour was threatened by "mob rule" got up by "frustrated journalists" (a number of Bevanites, including Michael Foot and Tom Driberg, were journalists). In addition, Purchase Tax was increased from 33% to 66% on certain luxury items such as cars, television sets and domestic appliances, while entertainment tax was increased on cinema tickets. 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. This may have been from a love of micro-management or because, as an advocate of controls and planning, he was suspicious of treasury officials, whom he thought excessively inclined to free market mechanisms.

Ross McKibbin argues that the Labour government had very limited room to manoeuvre in 1929–31, and it did as well as could be expected; and that it handled the British economy better than most foreign governments handled theirs, and the Great Depression was less severe in Britain than elsewhere. There were also very real worries that the Soviets might invade western Europe (which was unarmed, with strong communist influence in many countries) and that the US would not help Britain if she did not help herself.

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