(Allen Lane, £25)

The Cripps Version: the life of Sir Stafford Cripps, by Peter Clarke

Faded but not forgotten mark of yesterday's man

Stafford Cripps is Old Labour's forgotten man. Yet his impact in war and peace was immense. As ambassador to Moscow, he was a vital go-between with Stalin. As Chancellor, he launched the Keynesian one-nation consensus. His ethos of disciplined austerity defined an era. Above all, he played a unique part in the independence of India.

But Cripps has remained in the shadows. Because his papers were sat on for years, the career of this patrician eccentric had been inaccessible: teetotaller, vegetarian, ascetic; High Anglican KC who championed the Popular Front; land-owning class warrior; lover of India who broke with Nehru and Gandhi at key moments.

Peter Clarke is the first historian to receive full access to Cripps's papers. Many stereotypes are challenged. The austere Cripps was a convivial host, not so iron a Chancellor that he could not encourage more wine drinking or short skirts (admittedly to conserve textile supplies); not so super-Godly that he could not use spin doctors.

The three key relationships of Cripps's life are analysed. Cripps and Churchill had endless skirmishes marked by respect. Over the supposedly saintly Mahatma Gandhi, Cripps found himself frustrated by his Hindu partisanship. His friendship with Nehru, "the greatest privilege of my life", helped towards a settlement which changed the world.

Clarke states that he is not writing a conventional biography. The book is a kind of magnificent club sandwich, the beef coming from a massive filling of more than 200 pages on India, with relatively thin covering slices on Cripps's far-left phase in the Thirties, and the postwar Chancellorship. No great interest is shown in the history of the Labour Party. The 1945 election receives half a sentence, the two vital years at the Board of Trade (1945-7) one page.

However, the central sections, dealing with Russia, wartime politics and the two missions to India in 1942 and 1946, are utterly gripping. As a diplomat in Russia, Cripps operated with remarkable latitude. In India his achievement was more uncertain. The Offer of 1942, ambiguous on British sovereignty, defence and the autonomy of Muslim provinces, failed to satisfy either side.

In 1946, the divisions of a largely Hindu Congress and the Muslim League defeated Cripps's mediating efforts. Yet the transfer of power in August 1947, usually credited to Attlee, really owed more to Cripps. It was he who suggested Mountbatten as Viceroy.

Cripps did many foolish things. His uncritical pro-Sovietism in the Thirties reveals him as the "goose" Attlee called him. Yet there was a rare prophetic vision about him. At home he enabled Labour to weather postwar financial crises without losing its socialist objective. The devaluation of 1949 was an economic success: "democratic planning" worked.

Overseas, he showed a rare sensitivity for colonial nationalism and racial equality. (His daughter married a Ghanaian nationalist.) If Britain avoided in India the drawn-out tragedies of Indo-China, Algeria or Angola, Cripps was a major reason. New Labour, contemplating afresh its moral compass, could do worse than recall his memory.

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama

TV

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living