11 JANUARY 1963, Page 11

Spectator's Notebook

IHOPE that, when the general election comes, Mr. Gaitskell will be fully recovered and able to lead his party without any clinging doubts about his health. Even his harshest opponents know that nothing would be worse for the health of politics in this country than that the alter- native government should suddenly find itself deprived of a leader who has won a large measure of acceptance and trust beyond the bounds of the party itself. But there remains the period of his recovery and convalescence. This itself could do untold damage to the Labour Party. Like Mr. Macmillan, Mr. Gaitskell has built up his reputation from the floor of the House of Commons: he has consistently led the partly superbly there, and lately he has often had the better of Mr. Macmillan and other senior Ministers. All that the Conservatives needed at this precise moment was the prospect of facing, across the floor, only the wild fisticuffs of Mr. George Brown or the knockabout of Mr. Harold Wilson. Is there no one else? Possibly Mr. James Callaghan. When he was shadow Colonial Sec- retary, he showed that he had a real heavy- weight's quality. He had mastered the business of attacking with authority. As shadow Chancel- lor of the Exchequer, he showed much the same 'quality in the televised party political broadcast which he handled himself. He may emerge from the shadows in Mr. Gaitskell's absence. He is rather like a Labour Baldwin. Certaints, he is the only potential national leader in Labour's ranks.