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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, and an important socialist theorist. He served as Member of Parliament for South Gloucestershire and later for Great Grimsbymarker. 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.

Early life

Crosland was born at St Leonards-on-Seamarker, Sussex. His father, Joseph Beardsall Crosland, was a senior official at the War Officemarker. Both his parents were members of the Exclusive Raven Taylor Plymouth Brethren. His maternal grandfather was Frederick Edward Raven (1837-1903), founder of the Raven Exclusive Brethren and secretary of the Royal Naval College at Greenwich. He grew up in North London and was educated at Highgate Schoolmarker and at Trinity College, Oxfordmarker. 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. A formative incident during this period was the death of his close friends, Captain Mark Wickham-Jones and Major Steven Fielding, who were both killed at the Battle of Arnhem.

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 Unionmarker. He then became an Oxford Universitymarker 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 Parliamentmarker at the February 1950 general election, being returned for the South Gloucestershire constituency. He held that seat until the May 1955 general election, when he was defeated.

Return to Parliament

Crosland returned to the House of Commonsmarker at the 1959 general election when he was elected for Grimsbymarker, which he would represent for the rest of his life. He was, like Roy Jenkins and Denis Healey, a friend and protegé 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 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 would not be Brown's deputy for long.

In government

On 22 January 1965 Wilson appointed Crosland Secretary of State for Education and Science. 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. It seemed to be an urgent personal crusade for him, reflected in the famous quotation "If it's the last thing I do, I'm going to destroy every fucking grammar school in England. And Wales and Northern Ireland". Close associates such as Roy Hattersley have denied the probable authenticity of the quote, but the original source is Susan Crosland's biography of her husband. The outcome has been a source of controversy ever since. 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.

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 Bradfordmarker in January 1966.

After Labour's return to power in early March 1974, Crosland became Secretary of State for the Environment. 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.

Personal life

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 Americanmarker from Baltimoremarker whom he had met in the late 1950s, 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.

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 to Blundell Parkmarker to watch Grimsby Town play Gillingham in late April 1976 when the two met for the first time. In December 1976, when Kissinger bowed out after the Republican defeat, he went with Crosland to watch a football match at Stamford Bridgemarker between Chelsea and Wolverhampton Wanderers.


Losing his seat in 1955 turned out to be a blessing in disguise, 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.

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 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".


Crosland and his wife bought a converted mill at Adderburymarker in 1975 as well as having a home at Lansdowne Road in Londonmarker. It was at Adderbury that he suffered a massive cerebral hæmorrhage 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. He never had the chance to do so. Instead, 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 Infirmarymarker Hospital 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.

See also


  • Friends and Rivals: Crosland, Jenkins and HealeyGiles Radice, 2002, Little Brown, ISBN 0-316-85547-2
  • Anthony Crosland- Kevin Jeffreys, 1999, Metro Books, ISBN 1-86066-157-2
  • Crosland and New Labour - Dick Leonard (editor), 1999, Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN 0-333-73990-6
  • The Tony Benn Diaries - Out of the wilderness 1963-1967- 1987, Hutchinson, ISBN 0099586703
  • Tony Crosland - Susan Crosland, 1982, Cape, ISBN 0-224-01787-X.

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