That Labour leader's speech - 1960

The BBC has a current affairs programme available on iplayer from 5 October 1960.  It documents the events of that day, when the Labour leadership lost a key vote and the conference voted for unilateral disarmament.  The final ten minutes of the programme are on Hugh Gaitskell's famous and powerful speech declaring that he and others would 'fight fight and fight again to save the Party we love'.

It is a powerful speech even now.  Gaitskell doesn't pull his punches and, in this segment at least, does not seem to try to tickle his audience into agreeing (he knew that, due especially to union votes long since decided, the NEC had lost the vote).  On the contrary, facing a threat to his leadership, he demands to be heard (eg 'How wrong can you be? As wrong as you are about the attitude of the British people.')  Facing heckles he continues his speech towards that famous line at the end.  After he has sat down, amid uproar and applause, many delegates sing 'for he's a jolly good fellow.'

Also a matter of historical interest is the way delegates behind him continue to puff away at their cigarettes while he gives the speech of his life.  The programme is only available for a day or two on iplayer.

Stephen Beer, 03/10/2010

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