Philip Snowden: The First Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer

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Philip Snowden: The First Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer

Philip Snowden: The First Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer

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The Chancellor of the Exchequer is the government's chief financial minister and responsible for the fiscal and monetary policy of the United Kingdom. A very angry Bevan saw the charges as a blow to the principle of a free health service, telling a heckler whilst he was making a speech in Bermondsey (3 April 1951) that he would resign rather than accept health charges.

He argued that higher interest rates would be perceived as generating profits for the banks, which would not sit well with trade unions, and he was only prepared to consider demanding that the banks restrict credit. Upon Ramsay MacDonald's appointment as Prime Minister in January 1924, Snowden was appointed as the Labour Party's first ever Chancellor of the Exchequer [7] and sworn of the Privy Council. He eventually joined the executive committee of the Keighley ILP in 1899, and went on to chair the ILP from 1903 to 1906. However, Dell comments that he often went into excessive detail, including personally overseeing economic forecasts, and held excessively long meetings.

Throughout the summer of 1960 union conferences, many of whose rule books had their own equivalent to Clause IV, were hostile to the new proposal, and in the end four of the six largest unions opposed Gaitskell's plans. Early in 1950 Cripps backed off from a plan to introduce further charges, this time on false teeth and spectacles, after Bevan threatened to resign, but Gaitskell was put on a committee to monitor Bevan's agreement to a ceiling on NHS spending. This would have been a rare honour as 263 of the 393 Labour MPs in 1945 were newly elected, but did not take place. At the Margate conference that autumn Gaitskell gave a stirring and well-received speech including an apparently unscripted passage stressing his own socialist credentials and arguing that nationalisation was still a "vital means" to achieving that end. Bevan at this time thought that Gaitskell should be reduced to "a junior clerk" in the next Labour Government.

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. Correspondence flowed between the General Secretary of the ILP, Francis Johnson and the Blackburn agent George Eddie and also that of Philip Snowden who indicated his desire to do what was best for the local party. However, Bevan soon rejected Gaitskell's proposed compromise that it be announced that the health charges were not to be permanent as "a bromide". In 1860, William Ewart Gladstone carried his speech in a red brief case and today the Chancellor still carries one to his annual speech. 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.

In fact it may well have been aimed at Attlee who had the previous day warned against "emotionalism" whilst privately Bevan thought that Gaitskell was highly emotional and, as he had shown in 1951, "couldn't count". Economy, Free Trade, Gold — these were the keynotes of his political philosophy, and deflation the path he trod with almost ghoulish enthusiasm. Snowden was again appointed Chancellor after Labour formed a government in 1929, after emerging as the largest party in the general election. In 1898, he launched the Keighley Labour Journal, using it to denounce waste, pettiness, and corruption.

He attempted to resign in the summer but was dissuaded by Gaitskell and Plowden because of the outbreak of the Korean War. The most popular conspiracy theory involved a supposed Soviet KGB plot to ensure that Wilson (alleged by the supporters of these theories to be a KGB agent himself) became Prime Minister. At the second meeting, Gaitskell threatened to resign, but quietly and without a public fuss, if he did not have the backing of the Cabinet; the resignation of the Chancellor on the eve of the budget would have caused a political crisis. Gaitskell was adored by followers like Roy Jenkins, who thought him a beacon of hope, decency and integrity, especially as Wilson's government came more and more to seem one of shabby compromises.Gaitskell was determined that there would not be an open-ended commitment to welfare spending at the expense of economic investment or rearmament, and rejected Morrison's proposal. Gaitskell warned the Economic Policy Committee (3 April 1951) of the shortage of machine tools, and stated that some could be imported from the US but that this would weaken the balance of payments. In the 1935 general election, Snowden supported the Keynesian economic programme proposed by Lloyd George ("Lloyd George's New Deal"), despite it being a complete repudiation of Snowden's own classical liberal fiscal policies. Its object is to create in him a greater and greater sense of his dependence upon the state, and, at the same time, to inculcate in him the conviction that he is a part of it and that he has a duty and responsibility toward the state; and that only in so far as he fulfils this duty can he benefit by the advantages of a complete personal and social life. Gaitskell visited Washington in October 1950, his first visit there, just before becoming Chancellor.

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