Anthony Crosland

The Right Honourable
Anthony Crosland

Anthony Crosland (left) and Henry Kissinger, 1976.
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
In office
8 April 1976  19 February 1977
Prime Minister James Callaghan
Preceded by James Callaghan
Succeeded by David Owen
Secretary of State for the Environment
In office
5 March 1974  8 April 1976
Prime Minister Harold Wilson
Preceded by Geoffrey Rippon
Succeeded by Peter Shore
Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment
In office
19 June 1970  5 March 1974
Leader Harold Wilson
Succeeded by Margaret Thatcher
Secretary of State for Local Government and Regional Planning
In office
6 October 1969  19 June 1970
Prime Minister Harold Wilson
Preceded by Anthony Greenwood (Minister of Housing and Local Government)
Succeeded by Peter Walker (Minister of State for Housing and Local Government)
President of the Board of Trade
In office
29 August 1967  6 October 1969
Prime Minister Harold Wilson
Preceded by Douglas Jay
Succeeded by Roy Mason
Secretary of State for Education and Science
In office
22 January 1965  29 August 1967
Prime Minister Harold Wilson
Preceded by Michael Stewart
Succeeded by Patrick Gordon Walker
Minister of State for Economic Affairs
In office
20 October 1964  22 January 1965
Prime Minister Harold Wilson
Preceded by Office Created
Succeeded by Austen Albu
Economic Secretary to the Treasury
In office
19 October 1964  22 December 1964
Prime Minister Harold Wilson
Preceded by Maurice Macmillan
Succeeded by Office Abolished
(Eventually Jock Bruce-Gardyne)
Member of Parliament
for Great Grimsby
In office
8 October 1959  19 February 1977
Preceded by Kenneth Younger
Succeeded by Austin Mitchell
Member of Parliament
for South Gloucestershire
In office
23 February 1950  26 May 1955
Preceded by Constituency established
Succeeded by Frederick Corfield
Personal details
Born (1918-08-29)29 August 1918
St Leonards-on-Sea, Sussex, England
Died 19 February 1977(1977-02-19) (aged 58)
Oxford, Oxfordshire, England
Political party Labour
Alma mater Trinity College, Oxford

Charles Anthony Raven Crosland (29 August 1918 – 19 February 1977), otherwise Tony Crosland or C.A.R. Crosland, was a British Labour Party politician and author. He served as Member of Parliament for South Gloucestershire and later for Great Grimsby. Throughout his long career he occupied the cabinet positions of Secretary of State for Education and Science, President of the Board of Trade, Secretary of State for Local Government and Regional Planning and Foreign Secretary. A prominent socialist intellectual, he became one of the Labour Party's revisionists on the right, as an intellectual leader of Gaitskellism. His highly influential book The Future of Socialism (1963) argued against many Marxist notions and Labour Party orthodoxy that public ownership was essential to make socialism work. He offered positive alternatives to both right and left wings of his Labour Party. He downplayed public ownership of the means of production – the classic socialist formulation – and argued instead for making the highest priority the end of poverty and improved public services. As foreign secretary he promoted détente with the Soviet Union.

Early life

Crosland was born at St Leonards-on-Sea, Sussex. His father, Joseph Beardsall Crosland, was a senior official at the War Office. Both his parents were members of the Plymouth Brethren. His maternal grandfather was Frederick Edward Raven (1837–1903),[1] founder of the Raven Exclusive Brethren and secretary of the Royal Naval College, Greenwich. He grew up in North London and was educated at Highgate School and at Trinity College, Oxford. After obtaining 2nd class honours in Classical Moderations in Greek and Latin Literature, and his Masters, Crosland served as a paratrooper in Europe during the Second World War, from 1940, reaching the rank of Captain.

After the war, Crosland returned to Oxford University and obtained a First Class Honours degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, which he studied in 12 months; he also became President of the Oxford Union. He then became an Oxford University don tutoring Economics. Notable names Crosland taught at Oxford were Tony Benn, Norris McWhirter and Ross McWhirter.

Member of Parliament

Crosland, who had been talent-spotted by Hugh Dalton, was chosen as a Labour candidate in December 1949 to fight the next general election. He entered Parliament at the February 1950 general election, being returned for the South Gloucestershire constituency. He held that seat until the 1955 general election, when he was defeated at Southampton Test.

Return to Parliament

Crosland returned to the House of Commons at the 1959 general election when he was elected for Grimsby, which he would represent for the rest of his life. He was, like Roy Jenkins and Denis Healey, a friend and protégé of Hugh Gaitskell, and together they were regarded as the "modernisers" of their day.

1963 leadership election

Even though they were from the same wing of the party, the thought of the Labour Party being led by the very effective but volatile George Brown appalled Crosland, but he also was a critic of Harold Wilson for his apparent lack of principles. Just over two years earlier Wilson had challenged Gaitskell for the party leadership. Crosland nominated and voted for James Callaghan in the leadership contest caused by Gaitskell's death on 18 January 1963. He rationalised his decision to back Callaghan on the basis that "We have to choose between a crook (Harold Wilson) and a drunk (George Brown)". However, Callaghan was eliminated after obtaining 41 votes, the margin in votes between Wilson and Brown in the final ballot. With Callaghan eliminated, Crosland's second wife wrote in her 1982 biography, he voted for George Brown in the second ballot, although with zero enthusiasm, and with little interest about the result, as he was opposed to both of the candidates now standing for the party leadership. Wilson won by 144 votes to Brown's 103 on 14 February 1963.

Although critical of Harold Wilson, Crosland was angry with Wilson for challenging Gaitskell in 1960 for the party leadership, Crosland respected him as a political operator. Under Wilson, Crosland was first appointed Brown's deputy in October 1964. In November 1964 Crosland and Brown told Wilson and Callaghan that ruling out devaluation was a mistake in the face of the economic crisis then under way. However, Crosland was not Brown's deputy for long.

In government

On 22 January 1965 Wilson appointed Crosland Secretary of State for Education and Science.

Grammar schools controversy

The ongoing campaign for comprehensive education in England and Wales gained a major boost with Circular 10/65, which as a statute rather than a Government Bill was controversial at the time, although a government motion in favour of the policy had been passed in January 1965.[2] In her biography published in 1982, Susan Crosland claimed her husband had told her "If it's the last thing I do, I'm going to destroy every fucking grammar school in England. And Wales and Northern Ireland",[3] although close associates such as Roy Hattersley have doubted that the quotation is genuine.[4] The outcome has been a source of controversy ever since.[5]

Another major educational change was that presaged by his speech at Woolwich Polytechnic establishing a 'binary system' of higher education, in which universities would be joined by polytechnic institutions which concentrated on high level vocational skills.

Overseas student fees hike

In October 1966 a committee of ministers in the Labour government decided to increase university fees for overseas students. Two months later Crosland announced their decision which treated Commonwealth students for the first time as if they were foreign. Widespread protests, which erupted immediately, soon united a large number of influential people from across a wide spectrum from left-wing militant students to mildly conservative vice-chancellors.[6]


Crosland subsequently served as President of the Board of Trade from September 1967 to October 1969. He was deeply disappointed not to have been made Chancellor of the Exchequer after the November 1967 cabinet reshuffle which followed the devaluation of the pound. That job went to Roy Jenkins instead. Then he became Secretary of State for Local Government and Regional Planning until the election defeat of June 1970.

Crosland was seen as a leader and intellectual guru of the "right wing" or "social democratic" wing of the Labour Party in the 1970s. In April 1972 he stood for the deputy leadership of the party after Roy Jenkins resigned. He polled 61 votes of the Parliamentary Labour Party and was eliminated in the first round. The contest was eventually won by Edward Short, who defeated Michael Foot. Crosland was embarrassed by the national press in January 1973 when it emerged he had been given a silver coffee pot donated by disgraced corrupt architect John Poulson when opening a school in Bradford in January 1966. It later transpired that the pot was only silver-plated, and therefore of trivial value.

After Labour's return to power in March 1974, Crosland became Secretary of State for the Environment. He was instrumental in changing Transport policy on British Rail to be a higher fare fast intercity passenger service rather than its previous role as a general freight common carrier. He contested the leadership in March 1976 following Wilson's resignation, but polled only 17 votes and finished bottom of the poll. After his elimination, he switched his support to the eventual winner James Callaghan, who duly rewarded Crosland by appointing him Foreign Secretary on 8 April 1976.

According to John Macintosh, the Wilson and Callaghan governments were dominated by Crosland's views on equality:

“Crosland’s ideas continued to be almost unchallenged and dominated the Labour governments of 1964–1970 .... the Labour Government which came into office in 1974 edged back towards a Croslandite position ... if any ideas or policies could be said to have characterised Mr Callaghan’s very matter-of-fact and cautious government, they were the continuation of an approach which Crosland had set out in 1956.”[7]

Personal life

Early in his life Crosland had numerous affairs, including with Roy Jenkins.[8][9][10]

Crosland married Hilary Sarson in November 1952, divorcing after five years, though the marriage had effectively ended after a year. Crosland had numerous affairs with other women. He remarried on 7 February 1964 to Susan Catling, an American from Baltimore resident in London whom he had met in 1956,[11] and, in contrast to his first marriage, this was very happy and content. Susan Crosland was a successful writer. There were no children of either marriage, although Crosland's second wife had two daughters from a previous marriage.[12] He persuaded his step-daughters to abandon their elite private schools to attend Holland Park Comprehensive.[13] Susan Crosland died on 26 February 2011.[14]

Crosland was a keen football fan and an avid viewer of the television show Match of the Day. He insisted on taking the then American Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, a well known football fan, to Blundell Park to watch Grimsby Town play Gillingham in April 1976 when the two met for the first time.[15] In December 1976, when Kissinger bowed out after the Republican defeat, he went with Crosland to watch a football match at Stamford Bridge between Chelsea and Wolverhampton Wanderers.[15]

Labour revisionist

Losing his seat in 1955 turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Crosland, as it enabled him (as C.A.R. Crosland) to write The Future of Socialism, published in autumn 1956. This proved to be a seminal work for the moderate British left. (A revised 50th anniversary edition was published in 2006.) In the book he outlined the need for traditional socialism to adapt to modern circumstances – a context from which the use of the term "revisionism" has its origins in Britain, despite the gradualism associated with the Fabian Society since the end of the nineteenth century.

Labor revisionism turned out to be a powerful ideological tendency within the Party in the 1950s and 1960s, taking intellectual sustenance from the Crosland book, and political leadership from Hugh Gaitskell. Other important intellectuals included Douglas Jay, Roy Jenkins, and the writers who contributed to Socialist Commentary. The goal was to reformulate old socialist principles, and bring the Labour Party policies up to date with the changing British society and economy. Revisionism rejected the old view that socialism ought to be primarily identified with the ownership of the means of production. That meant that continuous nationalization was not a central goal. Second, was a series of political values focused on personal liberty, social welfare, and equality. Themes of destroying or overthrowing the rich and elite were downplayed in favor of policies of high taxation, more widespread educational opportunity, and expanded social services. Revisionists insisted on the necessity of a market-oriented mixed economy with a central role for capitalism and entrepreneurship.[16][17]

Crosland was himself an active member of the Fabian Society, contributing to the New Fabian Essays, which saw the emerging generation of Labour thinkers and politicians attempt to set out a new programme for Labour following the Attlee governments of 1945 to 1951. In the 1951 essay "The Transition from Capitalism" he claimed that "by 1951 Britain had, in all the essentials, ceased to be a capitalist country" as a result of the establishment of the welfare state.[18] In particular, Crosland wished to challenge the dominance of Sidney and Beatrice Webb in Fabian thinking, challenging their austere, managerialist, centralising, "top-down", bureaucratic Fabianism with a more liberal vision of the good society and the good life, writing in The Future of Socialism that "Total abstinence and a good filing system are not now the right signposts to the socialist utopia. Or at least, if they are, some of us will fall by the wayside".

Two further books of essays published by Crosland were The Conservative Enemy (London, Cape, 1962) and Socialism Now, and Other Essays (London, Cape, 1974).


Crosland and his wife bought a converted mill at Adderbury in 1975 as well as having a home at Lansdowne Road in Notting Hill, London. It was at Adderbury that he suffered a massive cerebral haemorrhage on the afternoon of 13 February 1977 whilst working on a paper on the Rhodesian situation. That evening, Crosland had intended to complete a major foreign policy speech on détente. The speech was subsequently delivered by his successor, David Owen, to the Diplomatic Writers Association on 3 March 1977.

Tony Crosland died in the Radcliffe Infirmary hospital, Oxford, on 19 February 1977 after being in a coma for six days. On 4 March 1977, his ashes were scattered at sea near Grimsby.

His papers are held at the London School of Economics.[19]

See also


  1. Frederick Edward Raven on the German language Wikipedia.
  2. "The right to a comprehensive education", Second Caroline Benn Memorial Lecture, given by Professor Clyde Chitty of Goldsmiths College, 16 November 2002
  3. P. 148.
  4. Reynolds, Gillian (13 September 2005). "The seductive art of salesmanship". The Telegraph. London.
  5. For example, the history and consequences of this development are examined at length in Chapter Eleven, "The Fall of the Meritocracy", of The Broken Compass Hitchens, Peter (2009). The Broken Compass: How British Politics Lost its Way. Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd. ISBN 1-84706-405-1.
  6. Overseas Students in Britain: How Their Presence was Politicised in 1966-1967 J.M. LEE Minerva Vol. 36, No. 4 (WINTER 1998), pp. 305-321 Publisher Springer
  7. "Ten Years of New Labour", edited by Matt Beech and Simon Lee, Palgrave Macmillan, May 2008
  8. Perry, Keith (10 March 2014). "Roy Jenkins' male lover Tony Crosland tried to halt his marriage". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  9. "Double lives – a history of sex and secrecy at Westminster". the Guardian.
  10. James McCarthy (6 April 2014). "A string of affairs and a 'gay relationship': the secret life of Roy Jenkins, the best PM Britain never had". walesonline.
  11. Julia Langdon Obituary: Susan Crosland, The Guardian, 28 February 2011
  12. Obituary, The Times, London, 21 February 1977
  13. Crosland, Susan (2001-02-14). "Forget the school, it's the teaching that counts". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2016-06-06. When Sheila asked us if she could go to Holland Park Comprehensive, I called on the headmistress of St Paul's, who told me we were using Sheila as a political pawn, but that it probably didn't matter too much as she was 'rather wet'. 'In what sense?' I inquired. 'She never wants to play sports.'
  14. Dick Leonard A Tribute to Susan Crosland Next Left, 6 March 2011
  15. 1 2 Hyde, Marina (4 March 2010). "Why grassrootsy protests are now a 'Must'". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
  16. Stephen Haseler, The Gaitskellites: Revisionism in the British Labour Party 1951–64 (Springer, 1969).
  17. F.M. Leventhal, Twentieth-century Britain: an encyclopedia (Peter Lang, 2002) pp 435-6.
  18. Kynaston, David (2009). Family Britain 1951-7. London: Bloomsbury. p. 82. ISBN 9780747583851.
  19. "London School of Economics and Political Science Archives catalogue". London School of Economics. Retrieved 16 November 2010.

Further reading

Primary sources

External links

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Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament for South Gloucestershire
Succeeded by
Frederick Corfield
Preceded by
Kenneth Younger
Member of Parliament for Great Grimsby
Succeeded by
Austin Mitchell
Party political offices
Preceded by
Baron Faringdon
Chairman of the Fabian Society
1961 1962
Succeeded by
Mary Stewart
Political offices
Preceded by
Michael Stewart
Secretary of State for Education and Science
Succeeded by
Patrick Gordon Walker
Preceded by
Douglas Jay
President of the Board of Trade
Succeeded by
Roy Mason
Preceded by
Anthony Greenwood
as Minister of State for Housing and Local Government
Secretary of State for Local Government and Regional Planning
Succeeded by
Peter Walker
as Minister of State for Housing and Local Government
Preceded by
Geoffrey Rippon
Secretary of State for the Environment
Succeeded by
Peter Shore
Preceded by
James Callaghan
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Succeeded by
David Owen
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