Stafford Cripps: Wikis


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The Right Honourable
 Sir Stafford Cripps

In office
13 November 1947 – 19 October 1950
Prime Minister Clement Attlee
Preceded by Hugh Dalton
Succeeded by Hugh Gaitskell

In office
29 September 1947 – 13 November 1947
Prime Minister Clement Attlee
Preceded by New creation
Succeeded by Post abolished (Trial post)

In office
27 July 1945 – 29 September 1947
Prime Minister Clement Attlee
Preceded by Oliver Lyttelton
Succeeded by Harold Wilson

Born 24 April 1889(1889-04-24)
London, England
Died 21 April 1952 (aged 62)
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Isobel Cripps
Religion Anglican

Sir Richard Stafford Cripps (24 April 1889 – 21 April 1952) was a British Labour politician, who served in a number of Cabinet positions, most notably as the Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1947 to 1950.


Early life

Cripps was born in London. His father was a Conservative member of the House of Commons who late in life, as Lord Parmoor, joined the Labour Party. His mother, the former Theresa Potter, was the sister of Beatrice Webb. Cripps grew up in a wealthy family and received the benefits of an aristocratic upbringing. He was educated at Winchester College and at the University of London, where he studied chemistry. He left science for the law, and in 1912 was called to the bar as a barrister. He served in the First World War as an ambulance driver in France and also successfully managed a factory producing armaments.

Joining the Labour Party

At the end of the 1920s Cripps moved to the far left in his political views, and in 1930 he joined the Labour Party. The next year, Cripps was appointed Solicitor-General in the second Labour government. This post was customarily accompanied by a knighthood, making him Sir Stafford Cripps. He was not yet a Member of Parliament, so he stood for and was elected in a by-election for the solidly Labour seat of Bristol East. He moved rapidly to the left, and became an outspoken socialist and a strong proponent of Marxist social and economic policies. Although his strong faith in evangelical Christianity prevented him from subscribing to the Marxist rejection of religion, he enthusiastically advocated Marxist economic views of government control of the means of production and distribution.

In the 1931 general election, Cripps was one of only three former Labour ministers to hold their seats and so became number three in the Parliamentary Labour Party, under the leader George Lansbury and deputy leader Clement Attlee. In 1932 he was one of the founders of the Socialist League, composed largely of members of the Independent Labour Party who rejected its decision to disaffiliate from Labour. The Socialist League put the case for an austere form of democratic socialism. Tall, thin and intense, he became the archetype of the British upper-class doctrinaire socialist so common in the 1930s.

In 1936 the National Executive Committee decided to dissociate itself from a speech in which Cripps said he did not "believe it would be a bad thing for the British working class if Germany defeated us".[1] Cripps was an early advocate of a United Front against the rising threat of fascism. In 1936 he was the moving force behind a Unity Campaign, involving the Socialist League, the ILP and the Communist Party of Great Britain, designed to forge electoral unity against the right. Opposed by the Labour leadership, the Unity Campaign was a damp squib: Cripps dissolved the Socialist League in 1937 rather than face expulsion from Labour, though Tribune, set up as the campaign's propaganda organ and bankrolled by Cripps and George Strauss, survived (and survives to this day). In early 1939, however, Cripps was expelled from the Labour Party for his advocacy of a Popular Front with the Communist Party and anti-appeasement Liberals and Conservatives.

Second World War

When Winston Churchill formed his wartime coalition government in 1940, he appointed Cripps ambassador to the Soviet Union, in the (perhaps naive) view that Cripps, an avowed Marxist, was the best person to try to negotiate with Stalin, who was at this time allied with Nazi Germany through the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Cripps led a mission to Moscow in 1940 and unsuccessfully attempted to warn Stalin of the possibility of an attack by Hitler on the Soviet Union. When Hitler attacked in June 1941, Cripps became a key figure in forging an alliance between the western powers and the Soviet Union.

In 1942 Cripps returned to Britain and made a broadcast about the Russian war effort. The popular response was phenomenal, and Cripps rapidly became one of the most popular politicians in the country, despite having no party backing. He was appointed a member of the War Cabinet, with the jobs of Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons — perhaps a deliberate over-promotion by Churchill, as Prime Minister, designed to diminish his standing, as he was considered for a short period after his return from the Soviet Union as perhaps nearly a rival to Churchill in his hold on the country. Indeed, the London bureau chief of the Associated Press reported in American newspapers in early March 1942 the prediction by "an extremely well-placed and reliable political source ... that there was every likelihood" that Cripps would soon unseat Churchill as prime minister.[2] Instead, Churchill sent Cripps to India on what is known as the Cripps Mission to attempt to negotiate an agreement with the nationalist leaders Gandhi and Jinnah that would keep India loyal to the British war effort in exchange for a promise of full self-government after the war. No formal agreement was reached. For Churchill, the purpose of the trip was propaganda. Churchill intended Cripps to fail and blocked his efforts to give the Indians a role in the leadership of the war with the help of Linlithgow.[3] Later in 1942 he stepped down from being Leader of the House of Commons and was appointed Minister of Aircraft Production, a position outside the War Cabinet but in which he served with substantial success. In 1945 Cripps rejoined the Labour Party.

Cripps meeting Mahatma Gandhi during the Second World War

After the war

When Labour won the 1945 general election, Clement Attlee appointed Cripps President of the Board of Trade, the second most important economic post in the government. Although still a strong socialist, Cripps had modified his views sufficiently to be able to work with mainstream Labour ministers. In Britain's desperate post-war economic circumstances, Cripps became associated with the policy of "austerity." As an upper-class socialist he held a puritanical view of society, and took a grim pleasure in enforcing rationing with equal severity against all classes. Together with other individuals he was instrumental in the foundation of the original College of Aeronautics, now Cranfield University, in 1946. The Vice-Chancellor's building is known as "Stafford-Cripps".

In 1946 Soviet jet engine designers approached Stalin with a request to buy jet designs from Western sources to overcome design difficulties. Stalin is said to have replied: "What fool will sell us his secrets?" However, he gave his assent to the proposal, and Soviet scientists and designers travelled to the United Kingdom to meet Cripps and request the engines. To Stalin's amazement, Cripps and the Labour government were perfectly willing to provide technical information on the Rolls-Royce Nene centrifugal-flow jet engine designed by RAF officer Frank Whittle, along with discussions of a licence to manufacture Nene engines. The Nene engine was promptly reverse-engineered and produced in modified form as the Soviet Klimov VK-1 jet engine, later incorporated into the MiG-15 which flew in time to deploy in combat against UN forces in North Korea in 1950, causing the loss of several B-29 bombers and cancellation of their daylight bombing missions over North Korea.[4]

In 1946, Cripps returned to India as part of the so-called Cabinet Mission, which proposed various formulae for independence to the Indian leaders. The other two members of the delegation were Lord Pethick-Lawrence, the Secretary of State for India, and A. V. Alexander, the First Lord of the Admiralty. However, the solution devised by the three men, known as the Cabinet Mission Plan, was unsatisfactory to the Indian National Congress mainly its principal leaders. (Gandhi is believed to have quipped that it was a "postdated cheque on a failing bank"), and instead of having to hold together the emerging one nation, Indian National Congress leaders travelled further down the road that eventually led to Partition.

In 1947, amid a growing economic and political crisis, Cripps tried to persuade Attlee to retire in favour of Ernest Bevin; however, Bevin was in favour of Attlee remaining. Cripps was instead appointed to the new post of Minister for Economic Affairs. Six weeks later Hugh Dalton resigned as Chancellor of the Exchequer and Cripps succeeded him, with the position of Minister for Economic Affairs now merged into the Chancellorship. Cripps laboured tirelessly to rescue Britain from its economic crisis. He increased taxes and forced a reduction in consumption in an effort to boost exports and stabilise the Pound Sterling so that Britain could trade its way out of its crisis. He strongly supported the nationalisation of strategic industries such as coal and steel.[5]

Although Cripps's severe manner and harsh policies made him unpopular, he won respect for the sincerity of his convictions and his tireless labours for Britain's recovery. His name once induced an infamous Spoonerism when the BBC announcer McDonald Hobley introduced him as 'Sir Stifford Crapps'.[6]

Personal life

Cripps had suffered for many years from colitis, inflammation of the lower bowel, a condition aggravated by excessive stress. In 1950 his health broke down under the strain and he was forced to resign his office in October. He resigned from Parliament the same month, and at the resulting by-election on 30 November he was succeeded as MP for Bristol South East by Tony Benn. Cripps died two years later while recuperating in Switzerland.

Cripps was the nephew maternally of Beatrice Webb, whose sister Theresa Potter was his mother. He was married to Isobel Swithenbank, better known as Dame Isobel Cripps (1891-1979), and had four children

  • Sir John Stafford Cripps[7] (1912-1993) whose only son is married, and has issue. Sir John's son and grandson are in remainder to the Barony Parmoor.
  • Isobel Diana Cripps (1913-1985) who died unmarried
  • (Anne) Theresa Cripps[8] (1919-1998), who was married 1945 to Sir Robert Cornwallis Gerald St. Leger Ricketts, 7th Bt, and had two sons and two daughters. The elder son Sir Tristam Ricketts, 8th Bt.[9] succeeded his father, died in 2007, and has been succeeded by his own son, Sir Stephen Ricketts, 9th Bt.
  • Peggy Cripps, born Enid Margaret Cripps (1921-2006), children's author. Peggy Cripps shocked much British opinion by marrying a black African Joseph Emmanuel Appiah (1918-1990), related to the Ashanti king in June 1953. Peggy Appiah had one son and three daughters. Her son is the philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah (b. May 1954 London), the Laurance S. Rockefeller professor of philosophy at Princeton University. Her three daughters live in Namibia, Nigeria, and Ghana and have had eight children between them. [10]

Cripps was a vegetarian, certainly for health reasons and possibly also for ethical reasons. "Cripps suffered from recurring illness which was alleviated by nature cure and a vegetarian diet..."[11].


  1. ^ Maurice Cowling, The Impact of Hitler. British Politics and British Policies, 1933-1940 (Chicago University Press, 1977), p. 215.
  2. ^ Drew Middleton, Says Cripps May be New English Prime Minister, Mason City Globe-Gazette, 1942-03-05, at 2, available at
  3. ^ William Roger Louis, "Ends of British Imperialism: the Scramble for Empire, Suez and Decolonization", page 399
  4. ^ Gordon, Yefim, Mikoyan-Gurevich MIG-15: The Soviet Union's Long-Lived Korean War Fighter Midland Press (2001)
  5. ^ Cooke, Colin. 1957. The Life of Richard Stafford Cripps
  6. ^ Anecdotage.Com - Thousands of true funny stories about famous people. Anecdotes from Gates to Yeats
  7. ^ - Person Page 23207
  8. ^ - Person Page 5378
  9. ^ Sir Tristram Ricketts, Bt - Telegraph
  10. ^ Nadine Brozan. "Peggy Appiah, 84, Author Who Bridged Two Cultures, Dies" The New York Times
  11. ^ Twigg, Julia. 1981. The Vegetarian Movement in England, 1847-1981: A Study of the Structure of Its Ideology. PhD Thesis, London School of Economics, p. 247, 292.

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Walter Baker
Member of Parliament for Bristol East
1931 – 1950
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Bristol South East
Feb. 1950Nov. 1950
Succeeded by
Anthony Wedgwood Benn
Legal offices
Preceded by
Sir James Melville
Solicitor General
Succeeded by
Sir Thomas Inskip
Political offices
Preceded by
Winston Churchill
Leader of the House of Commons
Succeeded by
Anthony Eden
Preceded by
Clement Attlee
Lord Privy Seal
Succeeded by
Viscount Cranborne
Preceded by
John Llewellin
Minister of Aircraft Production
1942 – 1945
Succeeded by
Ernest Brown
Preceded by
Oliver Lyttleton
President of the Board of Trade
1945 – 1947
Succeeded by
Harold Wilson
New office Minister for Economic Affairs
office abolished
Preceded by
Hugh Dalton
Chancellor of the Exchequer
1947 – 1950
Succeeded by
Hugh Gaitskell
Academic offices
Preceded by
Edward Evans
Rector of the University of Aberdeen
1942 – 1945
Succeeded by
Eric Linklater


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Sir Richard Stafford Cripps (April 24, 1889 – April 21, 1952) was a British Labour politician.


  • But it is a fallacy, if one is examining the methods by which security can be attained, to start upon the assumption, as so many hon. Members do, that we get security by an increase of air armaments or an increase of any other form of armaments.
    • Hansard, House of Commons, 5th Series, vol. 292, col. 2425.
    • Speech in the House of Commons opposing the National Government's decision to expand the Royal Air Force, 30 July, 1934.
  • It is fundamental to Socialism that we should liquidate the British Empire as soon as we can.
    • Hull Daily Mail, 2 March, 1936.
  • Every possible effort should be made to stop recruiting for the Armed Forces
    • Forward, 3 October, 1936.
  • I do not believe it would be a bad thing for the British working class if Germany defeated us.
    • The Times, 15 November, 1936.
  • The workers must now make it clear beyond all doubt that they will not support the Government or its armaments in its mad policy which it is now pursuing.
    • Speech on 23 May, 1938.
  • Emphatically no, and I never have been.
    • Peter Howard, "Men on Trial" (Blandford Press, 1945), p. 69
    • Asked by Peter Howard whether he favoured the use of any measure of force to establish Socialism.


  • He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.
  • There, but for the grace of God, goes God.
    • Winston Churchill.
  • Cripps, a man without roots, a demagogue and a liar, would pursue his sick fancies although the Empire were to crack at every corner. Moreover, this theoretician devoid of humanity lacks contact with the mass that's grouped behind the Labour Party, and he'll never succeed in understanding the problems that occupy the minds of the lower classes.

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