Gaitskell and Blair

John Rentoul

gaitskell Gaitskell and BlairI admire Hugh Gaitskell as much as the next Eurosceptic social democrat, but must protest at Donald Macintyre’s use of him to traduce Tony Blair in today’s Independent.

Don seems to think that Blair went out of his way* to omit reference to Gaitskell in his memoir, and that this omission is “telling”. What it tells is not clear, except that Blair has a “year zero” view of Labour Party history, and that Gaitskell was, in some people’s rose-tinted rear-view mirror, “left-wing by modern standards”.

I suspect that the reason Gaitskell does not appear in the index of A Journey is sadder and less interesting. It is simply that, by dying inconveniently early, Gaitskell ensured that he does not matter much in British or even Labour history.

As someone privileged to learn about political journalism at Don’s knee, though, I was surprised that he should give the time of day to the punk Compass view of history, that “the Thatcher-Blair years” were one long period of neo-liberal and neocon error, and that the pursuit of social and economic equality was “un-Blairite”.

*Don was teased, somewhat unfairly, in 1996 for his fondness for the phrase “went out of his way”.

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  • creggancowboy

    John you are NOT a social democrat you are a TORY.

  • Pacificweather

    History’s view of politicians is more strongly related to the date of their death than it is in other professions. Had Tony Blair died on 10 September 2001 he would be considered the best Labour Prime Minister of the century, possibly the best post war Prime Minister. As it is, even John Rentoul can only speak about him in one context.

  • williamgraant

    I have read your blog it is very helpful for me. I want to say
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  • NT86

    Social democrat??? LMAO. Blairites are worse than Tories.

  • D.J.Beck

    Something that has surprisingly remained unremarked over time is that Hugh Gaitskell died from Lupus shortly after returning from Russia and that a paper had been written in Russia on how lupus could be induced. This death lead to Harold Wilson’s selection. ???

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