James Cran

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James Cran
Member of Parliament
for Beverley (1987–1997) and
Beverley and Holderness (1997–2005)
In office
12 June 1987 – 11 April 2005
Preceded by Patrick Wall
Succeeded by Graham Stuart
Personal details
Born (1944-01-28) 28 January 1944 (age 72)
Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Penelope Barbara Wilson
Children Alexandra Cran-McGreehin
Residence Scottish Borders, Middlesex and Malta
Alma mater University of Aberdeen

James Douglas Cran (born 28 January 1944) is a British former Conservative Party politician. He was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Beverley (1987–1997) and for Beverley and Holderness (1997–2005) in northern England. "He was a Highland Scots Presbyterian, neat, shy, puritanical, ambitious, perfectionist, very decent, impatient. A flinty Aberdonian Eurosceptic and Ulster Unionist whose quirkiness makes him difficult to predict."[1][2] He stepped down at the 2005 general election. With the continued decline in the relevance and effectiveness of Parliament as a check on Government, he decided to retire and resultantly his attendance record fell and he was dubbed by the media as "The Invisible Cran". He concentrated on attending the Defence Select Committee (2001–05) and frequently chairing Bill and other Committees in Parliament as a member of the Chairman of Ways and Means Panel (2001–05).

Early life[edit]

He went to Ruthrieston School in Aberdeen and became the school’s 1959 Dux Medallion winner.[3] He studied at the University of Aberdeen, gaining an Honours MA. He was the National Winner of the 1968 Daily Mirror Speaking Trophy.[4]

He was a researcher in Conservative Research Department during 1970–71 and was a member of the Leader of the Opposition's (Edward Heath) Briefing Team during the 1970 General Election. From 1971–79, he was the Secretary and Chief Executive of the National Association of Pension Funds.[5][6] He was the CBI's Northern Director from 1979–84 and, whilst in post, the Northern TUC severed its links with the Northern CBI, citing as its reasons the facts that Cran was taking 'a right-wing stance', was 'non consensual' and 'very anti trade union'. The TUC resolution was reported to have been 'passed by a very large majority'.[7][8][9] This so-called anti-trade union stance was contradicted by his attitude in Parliament, as described by Labour MP Stan Crowther, when he served on the Trade and Industry Select Committee and particularly in its inquiry into British Steel.[10] He was CBI's West Midlands Director from 1984–87.[11][12] It was said that he had 'an uneasy spell with the CBI' and found the organisation 'a pretty soggy bunch and he did not try to hide it'.[13] From 1974–79, he was a councillor in the London Borough of Sutton, and served as Chairman of the Health and Housing Committee.[14]

Parliamentary career[edit]

He contested Glasgow Shettleston in October 1974 and Gordon (near Aberdeen) in 1983. He became MP for Beverley in 1987 taking over from Sir Patrick Wall, then transferred to Beverley and Holderness in 1997.

He was a member of the '92 Group of right-wing Conservative MPs and took an active part in the leadership contests involving John Major (June 1995), Michael Howard (1997) and the latter stages of William Hague's campaign (1997).[15][16]

He was a consistent opponent of the Maastricht Treaty and therefore of the single currency and closer European integration.[17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24] In the subsequent Parliamentary battle for the Treaty’s ratification, he was regarded as the Rebel Chief Whip.[25] Simon Hoggart said that Cran was "at the very heart of the operation, speaking little but managing every move...along with his friend Christopher Gill of Ludlow was the unofficial whip of the rebel forces and constantly more persuasive to judge by the results than the official whips or the Prime Minister".[26][27] The Prime Minister John Major, however, said of him in his autobiography (Chapter 15): "I was sorry to see...James Cran engaged in a battle against the government. He was a talented newcomer and capable as some were not, of putting the whole subject in context."[28]

He was also Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1995–96)[29] and, in this role, he acted as the link between government and the backbenches on developments in the Peace Process. He was also present with the Secretary of State in Washington DC at the first meeting with Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin. This was held in private during a Washington DC White House conference to encourage inward investment into the province.[30] He was also Pairing Whip and then Assistant Chief Whip (1997–2001).[31] Whilst in the Opposition Whips Office, he was one of only three Conservative MPs who refused to sign the Commission for Racial Equality's pledge not to use racist language at the General Election, on the basis that it was unnecessary.[32] Moreover, he along with the Opposition Deputy Chief Whip and Ann Widdecombe, Shadow Home Secretary, staged a sit-in during the Committee proceedings of the Police and Criminal Justice Bill in protest at the totally inadequate time allocated for its discussion by the Government. This brought the proceedings to a temporary halt and highlighted the excessive use by the Blair Government of the guillotine.[33] He was appointed Shadow Deputy Leader of the House by the then Leader of the Opposition Iain Duncan-Smith but resigned shortly thereafter to pursue other activities.[34][35] He was a member of a number of Select Committees: Trade and Industry (1987–92); Administration (1997–98); Selection (1998–2001); and Defence (2001–05). He was also a member of the Chairman of Ways and Means Panel (2001–05) and a member of the Council of Europe and the WEU (2001–02).[36]

In his active constituency work, and apart from the mass of issues that he pursued, he was particularly proud of having championed the cause of Withernsea, a seaside resort that had declined in economic terms like many others. Despite the fact that there was hardly a vote to be had by his efforts, he nonetheless led a delegation of local dignitaries to London to meet ministers, as a result of which development funds came to the town.[37][38]

Other Parliamentary activities included: Vice Chairman, Conservative Backbench Northern Ireland Committee (1992–95) and Order of St John All Party Group (1994–95); Secretary, Conservative Backbench Committee on Constitutional Affairs (1989–91), European Affairs (1989–91) and All Party Anglo-Malta Group (1992–94); Co-founder, Parliamentary Group on Occupational Pensions (1992); Member, Northern Ireland Grand Committee (1996–2001); Treasurer, European Research Group (1994–97); Member, '92 Group Steering Committee (2001–04); Council Member, Pension Trustees Forum (1992–95); and Parliamentary Consultant, Lincoln National (UK) Plc (1994–98).

Personal life[edit]

He married Penelope Barbara Wilson of South Kensington in 1973. They have one daughter, Alexandra Cran-McGreehin, who works at HM Treasury.


  • Who's Who 2005, A&C Black, London, 2005.
  • Diaries 1987-1992, Edwina Currie MP, 2002, ISBN 0 316 86024 7.
  1. ^ Parliamentary Profiles (A-D) 1987-91, Andrew Roth, ISBN 0 900582 27 8
  2. ^ Parliamentary Profiles (A-D) 1992-97, Andrew Roth, ISBN 0 900582 34 0
  3. ^ Aberdeen Schools Dux Winners, Aberdeen Evening Express, 13 June 1959
  4. ^ Winner National Speaking Competition, Aberdeen Evening Express, 9 May 1968
  5. ^ Who's Who in Finance 1975-76 - Register of Professional Bodies and Financial Associations, Gower Press, ISBN 0 7161 0241 2
  6. ^ NAPF Yearbook 1979, ISBN 0 905796 05 5
  7. ^ The Newcastle Journal, 6 October 1981
  8. ^ Shields Gazette, 6 October 1981
  9. ^ The Newcastle Evening Gazette, 11 February 1982
  10. ^ One Thing After Another, Stan Crowther MP, 2005, ISBN 1 84104 106 8
  11. ^ Yearbook and Who's Who, 1985, Coventry Evening Telegraph, ISBN 0 902464 19 1
  12. ^ The Birmingham Post Yearbook and Who's Who, 1984-85
  13. ^ Our Famous Five, The Guardian Political Almanac 1993-94, Simon Hoggart
  14. ^ Committee Chairman, Wallington and Carshalton Times, 30 April 1976
  15. ^ Michael Portillo - The Future of the Right, Michael Gove, 1995, ISBN 1-85702 335 8
  16. ^ Guilty Men - Conservative Decline and Fall 1992-97, Hywel Williams, 1998, ISBN 1-85410 581 7
  17. ^ Reluctant Rebel who took Major to the Brink, The Times, 4 May 1993, Nick Wood
  18. ^ Rebel Who Takes No Prisoners, A Political Interview by Phil Murphy, Yorkshire Post, 13 March 1993
  19. ^ The Bastards, Teresa Gorman MP with Helen Kirby, 1993, ISBN 0 330 33511 1
  20. ^ A Treaty Too Far - A New Policy for Europe, Michael Spicer MP, 1992, ISBN 1-85702 102 9
  21. ^ Whips Nightmare - Diary of a Maastricht Rebel, Christopher Gill, 2003, ISBN 978-1-84104-086-8
  22. ^ A Bastard's Tale, George Gardiner MP, 1999, ISBN 1-85410 637 6
  23. ^ In Office, Norman Lamont, 1999, ISBN 0-316 64707 1
  24. ^ Major - A Political Life, Anthony Seldon, 1997, ISBN 0 75380 145 0
  25. ^ Parliamentary Profiles (A-D) 1997-02, Andrew Roth, ISBN 0 900582 44 8
  26. ^ Our Famous Five, Guardian Political Almanac, 1993-94, Simon Hoggart
  27. ^ Cracking the Whip, Christopher Gill, 2012, ISBN 978 1 909099 06 7
  28. ^ The Autobiography, John Major, 2010, ISBN 0 00 257004 1
  29. ^ Mayhew Picks Cran as Aide, The Financial Times, 4 May 1995
  30. ^ Boost for Sinn Fein as Adams meets Mayhew, The Financial Times, 25 May 1995
  31. ^ Parliament in the 21st Century, Edited by Nicholas D J Baldwin, ISBN 1 84275 103 4
  32. ^ Party Chiefs Clash Over Playing the Race Card, The Daily Telegraph, 20 April 2001
  33. ^ Strictly Ann - The Autobiography, Ann Widdecombe, 2013, ISBN 978 02978 6643 5
  34. ^ Two Tories Quit Tory Team, The Times, 18 October 2001
  35. ^ The Spicer Diaries, Michael Spicer, 2012, page 466, ISBN 978-1-84954-238-8
  36. ^ Annuaire de l'Assemblee, Avril 2002, Strasbourg
  37. ^ Withernsea's Last Resort, Hull Daily Mail, Comment Column, 25 April 1998
  38. ^ Turning the Tide for Withernsea, A Hull Daily Mail Campaign Special, 25 April 1998

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Patrick Wall
Member of Parliament for Beverley
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Beverley and Holderness
Succeeded by
Graham Stuart