Richard Crossman

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Richard Crossman

Crossland MP.jpg
Secretary of State for Social Services
In office
1 November 1968 – 19 June 1970
Prime MinisterHarold Wilson
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byKeith Joseph
Lord President of the Council
Leader of the House of Commons
In office
11 August 1966 – 18 October 1968
Prime MinisterHarold Wilson
Preceded byHerbert Bowden
Succeeded byFred Peart
Minister of Housing and Local Government
In office
16 October 1964 – 11 August 1966
Prime MinisterHarold Wilson
Preceded byKeith Joseph
Succeeded byTony Greenwood
Shadow Secretary of State for Education
In office
14 February 1963 – 16 October 1964
LeaderHarold Wilson
Succeeded byQuintin Hogg
Chair of the Labour Party
In office
7 October 1960 – 6 October 1961
LeaderHugh Gaitskell
Preceded byGeorge Brinham
Succeeded byHarold Wilson
Member of Parliament
for Coventry East
In office
5 July 1945 – 28 February 1974
Preceded byConstituency Created
Succeeded byConstituency Abolished
Personal details
Born
Richard Howard Stafford Crossman

(1907-12-15)15 December 1907
Cropredy, Oxfordshire, England, UK
Died5 April 1974(1974-04-05) (aged 66)
Banbury, Oxfordshire, England, UK
Political partyLabour
Alma materNew College, Oxford

Richard Howard Stafford Crossman OBE (15 December 1907 – 5 April 1974), sometimes known as Dick Crossman, was a British Labour Party Member of Parliament, as well as a significant figure among the party's advocates of Zionism and anti-communism. Late in his life, Crossman was editor of the New Statesman. He is remembered for his highly revealing three-volume Diaries of a Cabinet Minister.

Early life[edit]

Crossman was born in either Cropredy, Oxfordshire,[1] or Bayswater, London,[2] the son of Helen Elizabeth (née Howard; she was of the Howard family of Ilford descended from Luke Howard, a Quaker chemist and meteorologist who founded the pharmaceutical company Howards and Sons)[3] and Charles Stafford Crossman,[4] a barrister and later a High Court judge, and grew up in Buckhurst Hill, Essex.

He was educated at Twyford School, and at Winchester College (although these scholarships were abolished in 1857,[5] he was 'founder's kin', being descended from William of Wykeham through his father's ancestor, John Danvers),[6][7] where he became head boy. He excelled academically and on the football field. He studied Classics at New College, Oxford, receiving a double first and became a fellow in 1931. He taught philosophy at the university before becoming a lecturer for the Workers' Educational Association. He was a councillor on Oxford City Council, and became head of the Labour group in 1935.[citation needed]

He had numerous homosexual affairs at university.[8]

Service in Second World War and afterwards[edit]

At the outbreak of Second World War Crossman joined the Political Warfare Executive under Robert Bruce Lockhart, where he headed the German Section.[9] He produced anti-Nazi propaganda broadcasts for Radio of the European Revolution, set up by the Special Operations Executive (SOE). He eventually became Assistant Chief of the Psychological Warfare Division of SHAEF and was awarded an OBE for his wartime service.[10] In April 1945, Crossman was one of the first[citation needed] British officers to enter the former Dachau concentration camp. With war correspondent Colin Wills, Crossman co-wrote the script for German Concentration Camps Factual Survey, a British government documentary, produced by Sidney Bernstein with treatment advice by Alfred Hitchcock, that showed gruelling scenes from Nazi concentration camps. The uncompleted film was shelved for decades before being assembled by scholars at the Imperial War Museum and released in 2014. That same year, German Concentration Camps Factual Survey was itself the subject of a documentary, Night Will Fall.[11][12]

Crossman became a key participant in the annual Königswinter Conference, organised by Lilo Milchsackto bring together British and German legislators, academics and opinion-formers from 1950 onwards. The conferences were credited with helping to heal bad memories created by the war. Crossman met the German politician Hans von Herwarth, the ex-soldier Fridolin von Senger und Etterlin and future German President Richard von Weizsäcker and other leading German decision makers. At the conference too were Denis Healey, soon to become a Labour Party politician, and Robin Day, later a political broadcaster.[13]

Political career[edit]

Crossman entered the House of Commons at the 1945 general election, as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Coventry East, a seat he held until shortly before he died in 1974. During 1945–46 he served, on the nomination of the Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin, as a member of the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry into the Problems of European Jewry and Palestine. The committee's report, submitted in April 1946, included a recommendation for 100,000 Jewish displaced persons to be permitted to enter Palestine. The recommendation was rejected by the British government, after which Crossman led the socialist opposition to the official British policy for Palestine. That incurred Bevin's enmity, and may have been the primary factor which prevented Crossman from achieving ministerial rank during the 1945–51 government. Crossman initially supported the Arab cause but after meeting Chaim Weizmann, he became a lifelong Zionist. In his diary, he described Weizmann as "one of the very few great men I have ever met."[14]

Crossman cemented his role as a leader of the left-wing of the Parliamentary Labour Party in 1947 by co-authoring the Keep Left pamphlet, and later became one of the more prominent Bevanites. He was a member of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party from 1952 until 1967, and Chairman of the Labour Party in 1960–61.

In 1957, Crossman was one of the plaintiffs, along with Aneurin Bevan and Morgan Phillips, in a claim for libel made against The Spectator, which had described the three men as drinking heavily during a socialist conference in Italy.[15] Having sworn that the charges were untrue, the three collected damages from the magazine. Many years later, Crossman's posthumously published diaries confirmed that The Spectator's charges had been true and that all three of them had perjured themselves.[16]

Crossman was Labour's spokesman on Education before the 1964 general election, but upon forming the new Government Harold Wilson appointed Crossman Minister of Housing and Local Government. In 1966 he became Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons.

He was Secretary of State for Health and Social Services from 1968 to 1970, in which position he worked on an ambitious proposal to supplement Britain's flat state pension with an earnings-related element. The proposal had not, however, been passed into law at the time the Labour Party lost the 1970 general election. During the months of political turmoil that led up to the election loss, Crossman had been considered, however briefly, as a last-minute option to replace Wilson as Prime Minister.

Books and journalism[edit]

After Labour's general election defeat in 1970, Crossman resigned from the Labour front bench to become editor of the New Statesman, where he had been a frequent contributor and assistant editor from 1938 until 1955. He left the New Statesman in 1972.

Crossman was a prolific writer and editor. In Plato To-Day (1937) he imagines Plato visiting Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. Plato criticises Nazi and Communist politicians for misusing the ideas he had set forth in The Republic.[17] After the war Crossman edited The God That Failed (1949), a collection of anti-Communist essays.

Crossman is best remembered for his colourful and highly subjective three-volume Diaries of a Cabinet Minister, written while he was living in Vincent Square, published posthumously from 1975 to 1977 and covering his time in government from 1964 to 1970. The diaries appeared after he had died, and following a legal battle by the government to block publication. One of Crossman's legal executors was Michael Foot, then a cabinet minister, who opposed his own government's attempts to suppress the diaries.[18] Among other things, the diaries describe Crossman's battles with "the Dame", his Permanent Secretary Evelyn Sharp, Baroness Sharp, GBE (1903–1985), the first woman in Britain to hold the position. Crossman's backbench diaries were published in 1981.

Crossman's diaries were an acknowledged source for the television comedy series Yes Minister.[19][20]

Death[edit]

Crossman died of liver cancer in April 1974 at his home in Oxfordshire. He was survived by his third wife, Anne Patricia (15 April 1920 – 3 October 2008; née McDougall, daughter of Patrick McDougall, of Prescote Manor, Cropredy, founder of the Banbury cattle market), with whom he shared common descent from the Danvers family of Cropredy. Anne Crossman worked at Bletchley Park during the second World War, and served as secretary to the M.P. Maurice Edelman. The Crossmans had two children, Patrick and Virginia.[7]

Quotation[edit]

The Civil Service is profoundly deferential – 'Yes, Minister! No, Minister! If you wish it, Minister!' [21]

Published works[edit]

  • Government and the Governed (A History of Political Ideas and Political Practice) London: Cristophers (1939)
  • Plato To-Day New York: Oxford University Press (1939)
  • Palestine Mission: A Personal Record New York: Harper (1947)
  • The God That Failed New York: Harper (1950) (editor)
  • A Nation Reborn New York: Atheneum (1960)
  • The Politics of Socialism New York: Atheneum (1965)
  • The Myths of Cabinet Government Cambridge: Harvard University Press (1972)
  • Diaries of a Cabinet Minister (three volumes, 1975, 1976 and 1977)
  • The Backbench Diaries of Richard Crossman (1981)

Biographies[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Dalyell, 2002
  2. ^ Howard, 2008
  3. ^ Brief Lives with some memoirs, Alan Watkins, Elliot and Thompson, 2004, pp 54-5
  4. ^ Biographical Register 1880-1974 - Corpus Christi College (University of Oxford) - Google Books. Books.google.ca. 3 January 2007. Retrieved 30 September 2018.
  5. ^ "The Reverend Anthony Trotman". The Daily Telegraph. 4 November 2006. Retrieved 30 September 2018.
  6. ^ Brief Lives with some memoirs, Alan Watkins, Elliot and Thompson, 2004, pg 54
  7. ^ a b "Anne Crossman". The Daily Telegraph. 8 October 2008. Retrieved 30 September 2018.
  8. ^ Michael Bloch. "Double lives – a history of sex and secrecy at Westminster". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 September 2018.
  9. ^ Mayne, Richard (1 April 2003). In Victory, Magnanimity, in Peace, Goodwill. p. 6. ISBN 0-7146-5433-7.
  10. ^ "No. 37308". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 October 1945. p. 5067.
  11. ^ Jeffries, Stuart (9 January 2015). "The Holocaust film that was too shocking to show". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 January 2015.
  12. ^ "German Concentration Camps Factual Survey". Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
  13. ^ Long Life: Presiding Genius, Nigel Nicolson, 15 August 1992, The Spectator, Retrieved 28 November 2015 ]
  14. ^ Palestine and the Great Powers, 1945-1948, Michael J. Cohen
  15. ^ "Messrs Bevan, Morgan Phillips and Richard Crossman...puzzled the Italians by their capacity to fill themselves like tanks with whisky and coffee... Although the Italians were never sure the British delegation were sober, they always attributed to them an immense political acumen." See Bose, Mihir, "Britain's Libel Laws: Malice Aforethought", History Today, 5 May 2013.
  16. ^ Roy Jenkins wrote of his former colleagues (in "Aneurin Bevan" in Portraits and Miniatures, 2011) that they "sailed to victory on the unfortunate combination of Lord Chief Justice Goddard's prejudice against the anti-hanging and generally libertarian Spectator of those days and the perjury of the plaintiffs, subsequently exposed in Crossman's endlessly revealing diaries." Geoffrey Wheatcroft wrote (in The Guardian, 18 March 2000, "Lies and Libel"): "Fifteen years later, Crossman boasted (in my presence) that they had indeed all been toping heavily, and that at least one of them had been blind drunk." Dominic Lawson wrote (in The Independent, "Chris Huhne's downfall is another example of the amazing risks a politician will take". 4 February 2013): "Crossman’s posthumously published diaries revealed that the story was accurate; and in 1978 Brian Inglis on What the Papers Say revealed that Crossman had told him a few days after the case that they had committed perjury". Mihir Bose (in "Britain's Libel Laws: Malice Aforethought", History Today, 5 May 2013) quotes Bevan's biographer, John Campbell, to the effect that the case had destroyed the career of the young journalist involved, Jenny Nicholson.
  17. ^ Goldhill, Simon, Love, Sex and Tragedy, U. Chicago Press, 2004, p. 202
  18. ^ Anthony Howard Michael Foot: The last of a dying breed The Telegraph, 5 March 2010
  19. ^ "Yes Minister Questions & Answers". Jonathan Lynn Official Website. Archived from the original on 19 November 2014. Retrieved 6 September 2007.
  20. ^ Crossman, Richard (1979). Diaries of a Cabinet Minister: Selections, 1964–70. London: Hamish Hamilton Ltd. ISBN 0-241-10142-5.
  21. ^ Ratcliffe, Susan. "Richard Crossman (1907–74)". Oxford Index. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 18 October 2015.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament
for Coventry East

1945–1974
Constituency abolished
Party political offices
Preceded by
George Brinham
Chairman of the Labour Party
1960–1961
Succeeded by
Harold Wilson
Political offices
Preceded by
Keith Joseph
Minister of Housing and Local Government
1964–1966
Succeeded by
Tony Greenwood
Preceded by
Herbert Bowden
Lord President of the Council
1966–1968
Succeeded by
Fred Peart
Leader of the House of Commons
1966–1968
Preceded by
Kenneth Robinson
as Minister of Health
Secretary of State for Social Services
1968–1970
Succeeded by
Keith Joseph
Preceded by
Judith Hart
as Minister of Social Security
Media offices
Preceded by
Paul Johnson
Editor of the New Statesman
1970–1972
Succeeded by
Anthony Howard