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Patrick Chrestien Gordon Walker

(b. 1907)


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(b. Worthing, Sussex, 7 Apr. 1907; d. London, 2 Dec. 1980)

British; Foreign Secretary 1964–5; Baron (life peer) 1974 The son of a judge, Gordon Walker was brought up in India and educated at Wellington College and Christ Church, Oxford. After some years as a don, he worked with the BBC during the Second World War.

Gordon Walker entered Parliament as MP for Smethwick in 1945 and received rapid promotion in Clement Attlee's government (1945–51). After playing a leading part in negotiating independent India's continued membership of the Commonwealth during two years as a junior minister, he became Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations. His record there was marred by controversy over the government's refusal to recognize Seretse Khama as head of the Bamangwato tribe in Bechuanaland after he had married a European woman.

As a firm Gaitskell supporter, he was approached (but declined) to contest the leadership on Gaitskell's death. When Harold Wilson formed his first government in 1964, Gordon Walker was given the Foreign Office, in spite of his having lost his seat at the general election. A vacancy in the Commons was created at Leyton, but he lost the by-election there, in January 1965, and resigned. Gordon Walker's misfortunes were largely attributed to the racial issue (he had led Labour's opposition to the Conservative government's Commonwealth Immigrants Bill). But there were also doubts about his effectiveness as a candidate. His career never recovered from this setback. Although he won Leyton in 1966 and Wilson the next year honoured a promise to restore him to ministerial office, his return to the Cabinet was short-lived. He was dropped after a mere sixteen months—divided between a non-portfolio post and the Secretaryship of State for Education. He retired from the Commons in 1974.

Subjects: Politics.


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