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Hugh Gaitskell and Ann Fleming


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Hugh Gaitskell's biographer, Philip M. Williams, the author of Hugh Gaitskell (1979) has argued: "At home at Frognal Gardens his guests were mostly progressive and few were actively Tory. But he kept up a few personal friendships across the political divide, largely through Anne Fleming and her circle. Crosland chided him about it; but, with his Wykehamist sense of rectitude and distaste for the idle rich, Gaitskell was not in the least worried that he might yield to the embrace of the social Establishment, or might be sourly suspected of doing so. He appreciated its comforts, and its intellectual stimulus still more." Williams goes on to argue that this was the view of senior members of the Labour Party.

However, Andrew Lycett, the author of Ian Fleming (1997) sees the relationship very differently: ""Ann (Fleming) used to joke that when she went to bed with Gaitskell, she liked to imagine she was with the more debonair Crosland. Much as she enjoyed her unexpected romance, she could only cope with it by being slightly disparaging." Fleming told Lord Beaverbrook: "I suppose I shall have to go dancing next Friday with Hugh Gaitskell to explode his pathetic belief in equality, but it will be a great sacrifice to my country."... "He (Hugh Gaitskell) saw her (Ann Fleming) as a spirited and amusing antidote to his dour professional life; she liked his brains and political clout, and considered it a challenge to wean him from his puritanical socialist principles to an enjoyment of the more overt pleasures in life. On one level, she promoted Gaitskell with Beaverbrook and ensured that his policies received favourable Express group newspaper coverage in any internal Labour Party dispute with his left wing. On another, she subverted the Labour leader's pretensions to seriousness. Ann Fleming, the political hostess who split the Labour Party and kept the Labour right wing in business: it is an interesting and not implausible thesis."

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