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Welsh History Review


Vol. 10, nos. 1-4 1980-81

Hugh Gaitskell : Book review.

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Dr. Morgan has a great deal to say about the internal difficulties which
centrist politics generated on the outer fringes of public life. On the
whole, Lloyd George was remarkably skilful at maintaining the unity
of the Cabinet at its centre. One may hope that Dr. Morgan will develop
this theme later: in particular, one would like to know rather more
about the relationships between the Cabinet and the Civil Service.
His conclusion is bleak and challenging. The Coalition was undermined
by the sectionalisms of class and party: the nation felt most secure in
living on its conflicts and divisions. 'The Coalition fell not because it
had governed badly, certainly not because it had been immoral or un-
usually corrupt, but because major sections within British society rebelled
against the constraints of unity.' There is a sense in which Lloyd George
was destroyed by the ghost of Sir Robert Peel, evoked in different ways
by Sir George Younger and Stanley Baldwin.
This is a rich book. It also marks a stage in Dr. Morgan's development
as an historian. His previous works have been monographs: he has now
broadened his range, with high success. This book will be the springboard
for many future studies, and is likely to be a topic of controversy for a
long time to come. It is essential reading.
Worcester College,
HUGH Gaitskell. By Philip Williams. Jonathen Cape, 1979. Pp. 1,007.
£ 15.00
With this book, more than with most, an all-round declaration of
interest is essential. The dust-jacket tells us that Philip Williams has been
a member of the Labour Party since he was sixteen; his first debt is to
Lady Gaitskell and to her husband's literary executors, Roy Jenkins and
the late Anthony Crosland, who between them commissioned the work;
and the substantial volume is dedicated 'to the memory of Charles
Anthony Raven Crosland, admired and beloved friend for forty years'.
Williams has boldly announced his stand-point. For his part, this reviewer
recalls being winkled out of an apolitical background and into the Labour
movement precisely because of Gaitskell and his essentially moral stand
on certain issues in the last three years of his life. At that time Gaiskell's
conscience had stood out as a beacon in the moral quagmire of the nation's
politics. Gaitskell's inspiration lived on, but in later years one felt relieved
to have escaped from his politics of confrontation and one grew uneasy
about the actions of those men who always talked of their 'love for Hugh'.
So one awaited this book with both eagerness and anxiety. One wanted
to know more about a man who had shown so little of himself, and yet
one hesitated to look again at those ugly and raw wounds which Labour
had inflicted on itself in Gaitskell's days.
Given its size, it is perhaps just as well that this is a very important
book, raising all kinds of fundamental questions for historians, students
of British politics and especially Labour supporters. For the historians it
raises, first, the question of genre. Surely the time has come for all of us
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