Richard Crossman
Richard Howard Stafford (Dick) Crossman OBE (15 December 1907 – 5 April 1974) was a British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

An author is broadly defined as "the person who originates or gives existence to anything" and that authorship determines responsibility for what is created. Narrowly defined, an author is the originator of any written work.-Legal significance:...

 and Labour Party
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

 politician who was a Cabinet Minister under Harold Wilson
Harold Wilson
James Harold Wilson, Baron Wilson of Rievaulx, KG, OBE, FRS, FSS, PC was a British Labour Member of Parliament, Leader of the Labour Party. He was twice Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the 1960s and 1970s, winning four general elections, including a minority government after the...

, and was the editor
Editing is the process of selecting and preparing written, visual, audible, and film media used to convey information through the processes of correction, condensation, organization, and other modifications performed with an intention of producing a correct, consistent, accurate, and complete...

 of the New Statesman
New Statesman
New Statesman is a British centre-left political and cultural magazine published weekly in London. Founded in 1913, and connected with leading members of the Fabian Society, the magazine reached a circulation peak in the late 1960s....

. A prominent socialist intellectual, he became one of the Labour Party's leading Zionists
Zionism is a Jewish political movement that, in its broadest sense, has supported the self-determination of the Jewish people in a sovereign Jewish national homeland. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Zionist movement continues primarily to advocate on behalf of the Jewish state...

 and anti-communists
Anti-communism is opposition to communism. Organized anti-communism developed in reaction to the rise of communism, especially after the 1917 October Revolution in Russia and the beginning of the Cold War in 1947.-Objections to communist theory:...

. Crossman is noted for his colourful if highly subjective three-volume Diaries of a Cabinet Minister.

Early life

The son of a judge, Crossman was born in either Cropredy
Cropredy is a village and civil parish on the River Cherwell, north of Banbury in Oxfordshire.-Early history:The village has Anglo-Saxon origins and is recorded in the Domesday Book...

, Oxfordshire
Oxfordshire is a county in the South East region of England, bordering on Warwickshire and Northamptonshire , Buckinghamshire , Berkshire , Wiltshire and Gloucestershire ....

, or Bayswater
Bayswater is an area of west London in the City of Westminster and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to the west . It is a built-up district located 3 miles west-north-west of Charing Cross, bordering the north of Hyde Park over Kensington Gardens and having a population density of...

, London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, and grew up in Buckhurst Hill
Buckhurst Hill
Buckhurst Hill is an affluent suburban town in the Epping Forest district of Essex, England. Located adjacent to the northern boundary of Greater London, it forms part of the Greater London Urban Area.- Overview :...

, Essex
Essex is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in the East region of England, and one of the home counties. It is located to the northeast of Greater London. It borders with Cambridgeshire and Suffolk to the north, Hertfordshire to the west, Kent to the South and London to the south west...

. He was educated at Twyford School
Twyford School
Twyford School is a co-educational, independent, preparatory boarding and day school, located in the village of Twyford, Hampshire.-History:Twyford claims to be the oldest preparatory school in the United Kingdom....

, and at Winchester College
Winchester College
Winchester College is an independent school for boys in the British public school tradition, situated in Winchester, Hampshire, the former capital of England. It has existed in its present location for over 600 years and claims the longest unbroken history of any school in England...

, where he became head boy
Head boy
Head Boy and Head Girl are terms commonly used in the British education system, and in private schools throughout the Commonwealth.-United Kingdom:...

. He excelled academically and on the football field. He studied Classics
Classics is the branch of the Humanities comprising the languages, literature, philosophy, history, art, archaeology and other culture of the ancient Mediterranean world ; especially Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome during Classical Antiquity Classics (sometimes encompassing Classical Studies or...

 at New College
New College, Oxford
New College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.- Overview :The College's official name, College of St Mary, is the same as that of the older Oriel College; hence, it has been referred to as the "New College of St Mary", and is now almost always...

, Oxford
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...

, receiving a double first and becoming a Fellow in 1931. He taught philosophy at the university before becoming a lecturer for the Workers' Educational Association
Workers' Educational Association
The Workers’ Educational Association seeks to provide access to education and lifelong learning for adults from all backgrounds, and in particular those who have previously missed out on education. The International Federation of Workers Education Associations has consultative status to UNESCO...

. He was a councillor
A councillor or councilor is a member of a local government council, such as a city council.Often in the United States, the title is councilman or councilwoman.-United Kingdom:...

 on Oxford City Council
Oxford City Council
The Oxford City Council provides local government for the city of Oxford in England.- Overview :Between the 2004 local elections, and 2010 the council was in minority administration, first by councillors from the Labour Party, with the Liberal Democrats being the official opposition...

, and became head of the Labour group in 1935.

War service

At the outbreak of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 Crossman joined the Political Warfare Executive
Political Warfare Executive
During World War II, the Political Warfare Executive was a British clandestine body created to produce and disseminate both white and black propaganda, with the aim of damaging enemy morale and sustaining the morale of the Occupied countries....

 under Robert Bruce Lockhart, where he headed the German Section. He produced anti-Nazi propaganda broadcasts for Radio of the European Revolution, set up by the Special Operations Executive
Special Operations Executive
The Special Operations Executive was a World War II organisation of the United Kingdom. It was officially formed by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Minister of Economic Warfare Hugh Dalton on 22 July 1940, to conduct guerrilla warfare against the Axis powers and to instruct and aid local...

. He eventually became Assistant Chief of the Psychological Warfare Division
Psychological Warfare Division
The Psychological Warfare Division of SHAEF was a joint Anglo-American organisation set-up in World War II tasked with conducting principally 'white' tactical psychological warfare against German troops in North-west Europe during and after D-Day. It was headed by US Brigadier-General Robert A...

 of SHAEF and was awarded an OBE
Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

 for his wartime service. In the spring of 1945 he was one of the first British officers to enter the Dachau concentration camp.

Political career

Crossman entered the House of Commons
British House of Commons
The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which also comprises the Sovereign and the House of Lords . Both Commons and Lords meet in the Palace of Westminster. The Commons is a democratically elected body, consisting of 650 members , who are known as Members...

 in 1945, as Member of Parliament
Member of Parliament
A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...

 (MP) for Coventry East
Coventry East (UK Parliament constituency)
Coventry East was a parliamentary constituency in the city of Coventry in the West Midlands. It returned one Member of Parliament to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, elected by the first past the post system.- History :...

, a seat he would hold until shortly before his death in 1974. During 1945-46 he served, on the nomination of the Foreign Secretary
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, commonly referred to as the Foreign Secretary, is a senior member of Her Majesty's Government heading the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and regarded as one of the Great Offices of State...

 Ernest Bevin
Ernest Bevin
Ernest Bevin was a British trade union leader and Labour politician. He served as general secretary of the powerful Transport and General Workers' Union from 1922 to 1945, as Minister of Labour in the war-time coalition government, and as Foreign Secretary in the post-war Labour Government.-Early...

, 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
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

. The recommendation was rejected by the British government, after which Crossman led the socialist opposition to the official British policy for Palestine. This incurring Bevin's enmity, and may have been the primary factor which prevented Crossman from achieving ministerial rank during the 1945-51 government.

He was a member of the National Executive Committee
National Executive Committee
The National Executive Committee or NEC is the chief administrative body of the UK Labour Party. Its composition has changed over the years, and includes representatives of affiliated trade unions, the Parliamentary Labour Party and European Parliamentary Labour Party, Constituency Labour Parties,...

 of the Labour Party from 1952 until 1967, and Chairman of the Labour Party in 1960-61. Crossman cemented his role as a leader of the left wing of the Parliamentary Labour Party
Parliamentary Labour Party
In UK politics, the Parliamentary Labour Party is the parliamentary party of the Labour Party in Parliament: Labour MPs as a collective body....

 in 1947 by co-authoring the Keep Left
Keep Left (pamphlet)
Keep Left was a pamphlet published in the United Kingdom in 1947 by the New Statesman, written by Michael Foot, Richard Crossman and Ian Mikardo that advocated a democratic socialist "third force" foreign policy – a socialist Europe acting independently from either the United States or the Soviet...

pamphlet, and later became one of the more prominent Bevanites.

In 1957, Crossman joined Aneurin Bevan
Aneurin Bevan
Aneurin "Nye" Bevan was a British Labour Party politician who was the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party from 1959 until his death in 1960. The son of a coal miner, Bevan was a lifelong champion of social justice and the rights of working people...

 and Morgan Phillips
Morgan Phillips
Morgan Walter Phillips was a colliery worker and trade union activist who became the General Secretary of the British Labour Party, involved in two of the party's election victories....

 in a controversial lawsuit for libel against The Spectator
The Spectator
The Spectator is a weekly British magazine first published on 6 July 1828. It is currently owned by David and Frederick Barclay, who also owns The Daily Telegraph. Its principal subject areas are politics and culture...

magazine, which had described the men as drinking heavily during a socialist conference in Italy. Having sworn that the charges were untrue, the three collected damages from the magazine. Many years later, Crossman's posthumously published diaries confirmed the truth of The Spectator 's charges.

Crossman was Labour's spokesman on Education before the 1964 general election
United Kingdom general election, 1964
The United Kingdom general election of 1964 was held on 15 October 1964, more than five years after the preceding election, and thirteen years after the Conservative Party had retaken power...

, but upon forming the new Government Harold Wilson
Harold Wilson
James Harold Wilson, Baron Wilson of Rievaulx, KG, OBE, FRS, FSS, PC was a British Labour Member of Parliament, Leader of the Labour Party. He was twice Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the 1960s and 1970s, winning four general elections, including a minority government after the...

 appointed Crossman Minister of Housing and Local Government. In 1966 he became Lord President of the Council
Lord President of the Council
The Lord President of the Council is the fourth of the Great Officers of State of the United Kingdom, ranking beneath the Lord High Treasurer and above the Lord Privy Seal. The Lord President usually attends each meeting of the Privy Council, presenting business for the monarch's approval...

 and Leader of the House of Commons
Leader of the House of Commons
The Leader of the House of Commons is a member of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom who is responsible for arranging government business in the House of Commons...


He was Secretary of State for Health and Social Security 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
United Kingdom general election, 1970
The United Kingdom general election of 1970 was held on 18 June 1970, and resulted in a surprise victory for the Conservative Party under leader Edward Heath, who defeated the Labour Party under Harold Wilson. The election also saw the Liberal Party and its new leader Jeremy Thorpe lose half their...

. 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

After the general election defeat, Crossman resigned from the Labour front bench in 1970 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 Today (1937) he imagines Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

 visiting Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. Plato criticizes Nazi and communist politicians for misusing the ideas Plato set forth in the Republic. He is perhaps now best known for his colourful and highly subjective three-volume Diaries of a Cabinet Minister. Covering his time in government from 1964 to 1970, they appeared despite a legal battle by the government to block publication. One of Crossman's legal executors was Michael Foot
Michael Foot
Michael Mackintosh Foot, FRSL, PC was a British Labour Party politician, journalist and author, who was a Member of Parliament from 1945 to 1955 and from 1960 until 1992...

, then a cabinet minister, who opposed his own government's attempts to suppress the diaries. Crossman's backbench diaries later appeared in book form. Much earlier, he had edited The God That Failed
The God that Failed
The God That Failed is a 1949 book which collects together six essays with the testimonies of a number of famous ex-communists, who were writers and journalists. The common theme of the essays is the authors' disillusionment with and abandonment of communism...

, a collection of anti-communist essays published in 1949.

Crossman's diaries were an acknowledged source for the highly successful TV comedy series Yes, Minister.

Crossman died of liver cancer in April 1974 at his home in Oxfordshire
Oxfordshire is a county in the South East region of England, bordering on Warwickshire and Northamptonshire , Buckinghamshire , Berkshire , Wiltshire and Gloucestershire ....



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


  • Anthony Howard
    Anthony Howard (journalist)
    Anthony Michell Howard, CBE was a prominent British journalist, broadcaster and writer. He was the editor of the New Statesman, The Listener and the deputy editor of The Observer...

     (1990) Crossman: The Pursuit of Power, Jonathan Cape
    Jonathan Cape
    Jonathan Cape was a London-based publisher founded in 1919 as "Page & Co" by Herbert Jonathan Cape , formerly a manager at Duckworth who had worked his way up from a position of bookshop errand boy. Cape brought with him the rights to cheap editions of the popular author Elinor Glyn and sales of...

  • Tam Dalyell
    Tam Dalyell
    Sir Thomas Dalyell Loch, 11th Baronet , known as Tam Dalyell, is a British Labour Party politician, who was a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons from 1962 to 2005, first for West Lothian and then for Linlithgow.-Early life:...

     (1989) Dick Crossman: A Portrait
  • Victoria Honeyman (2006) Richard Crossman; A Reforming radical of the Labour Party, I B Tauris

External links

  • Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery
    National Portrait Gallery (England)
    The National Portrait Gallery is an art gallery in London, England, housing a collection of portraits of historically important and famous British people. It was the first portrait gallery in the world when it opened in 1856. The gallery moved in 1896 to its current site at St Martin's Place, off...

    , London
  • Clive James on Richard Crossman
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