Richard Stafford Cripps

(b. 1889)

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(b. London, 24 Apr. 1889; d. Zürich, 21 Apr. 1952)

British; Chancellor of the Exchequer 1947–50; Kt. 1930 The son of the first Lord Parmoor, Cripps was educated at Winchester and University College, London. Trained as a chemist, he worked for the Ministry of Munitions during the First World War. After the war he won a brilliant reputation at the bar.

Cripps joined the Labour Party in 1929 and in 1930 was appointed Solicitor-General in the second Labour government. He entered the House of Commons at a by-election in January 1931 as MP for East Bristol (and represented it until his retirement from parliament in 1950). Labour's massive defeat in the 1931 general election made Cripps a prominent frontbench spokesman in the subsequent parliament. But his extra-parliamentary activities increasingly diverged from the party line. In 1932 he helped to found the left-wing Socialist League. With the PLP still weak after the 1935 general election, Cripps promoted the formation first of a United Front of the Working Class and then, in 1938, an even wider Popular Front to oppose the government. In 1937 he helped to found the left-wing weekly Tribune. These activities won support in the constituency parties and his election to the party's National Executive Committee. But they were condemned by the NEC and in 1939 he was expelled from the party.

When Winston Churchill formed his wartime coalition government in 1940, Cripps was appointed British ambassador in Moscow. He held the post until January 1942. The ambassadorship brought Cripps public acclaim and in February 1942 he was appointed leader of the House of Commons and a member of the War Cabinet. He was also sent on a mission to secure support for the war from the Indian leaders. The mission's failure and Cripps's own deficiencies in the Commons weakened his position and he was transferred to the non-Cabinet Ministry of Aircraft Production, in which he performed very successfully until the wartime coalition government ended.

Cripps rejoined the Labour Party shortly before the ensuing general election and was made president of the Board of Trade in the new Labour government, holding the post for two years—during which he played a prominent part in the negotiations leading to independence for India and Pakistan. In 1947, the outcome of a curious episode in which dissatisfaction with Clement Attlee prompted Cripps to urge him to give up the premiership, was that Cripps was given the new position of Minister for Economic Affairs. But after only six weeks, he was promoted to the Chancellorship of the Exchequer, made vacant by Hugh Dalton's resignation. He remained there until ill-health compelled his resignation in October 1950.

As Chancellor Cripps achieved considerable success in restoring international confidence in the British economy. But the necessarily deflationary policies, post-war scarcities, and his well-known personal abstemiousness created for his chancellorship a lasting reputation for austerity.

Subjects: Politics.

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