Obituary: Sir David Crouch

DAVID CROUCH was one of those many politicians possessed of copious talents and great commitment, who never seemed to be in the right place, holding the right ideas, at the right time to gain, hold, and acquire ministerial office. Indeed, as he once rather wryly observed to me, he failed at the polls when the whole ethos of conservatism was well-disposed towards parliamentary candidates who were of his way of thinking; and was victorious at the polls when the tide of Conservative thinking was turning against him.

By these conversational remarks he meant to point to the fact that, in the general election of 1959, when Harold Macmillan had swept all before him, he had failed to secure a seat in Leeds. He was an ardent Macmillanite, constantly referring his friends to Macmillan's inter-war book, The Middle Way (1938), the bible of those who believed in the possibility of an effective reconciliation, with vastly beneficent social welfare consequences, between capital and labour. Had Crouch won in Leeds he would have certainly put at least a toe on the ladder of ministerial preferment.

When he did win a seat in Canterbury in the 1966 general election, it was victory for him but a result which stood against the disastrous national crushing of the Tories by Labour. Moreover, the intellectual tide in Conservative politics was changing. Now the vague social emollience of the Macmillan years was out, and the tide of harsh competition was in. I have put the contrast between the two schools of thought rather simply: there were many shades of emphasis on both sides. But there is a certain truth here, and David Crouch was never able to surf successfully on either tide.

None of this, however, quelled the essential ebullience of his nature. Born in 1919, and educated at University College School, he evinced an early talent for self-publicity. His career, indeed, mainly lay in the appreciation of his quite extraordinary ability both to understand the real merits of any products he was marketing, and to be able to communicate those merits to almost any audience. Indeed, his wife Margaret, the daughter of a soldier, whom he married in 1947, once said, jokingly, that she had been lured by his silver tongue.

He was a handsome man, and a fine speaker, but he did not become a valued senior employee of ICI, nor a director of the International Wool Secretariat nor a director of Pfizer solely because of his charm. There was a very hard edge to his bonhomie, and an ability to see the administrative necessities of any business he chose to advise; and there were many.

I first saw, however, the brilliantly ameliorative side of his nature in 1969. A general election it was clear, could not be long delayed. There were many who while enthusiastically supportive of Edward Heath's generally stringent proposed economic policies, were anxious that they should not be propounded at the expense of serious concern for the disadvantaged in society.

The expensive teams of public relations consultants - the forerunners of today's spin doctors - were solely concerned with empty image. But Crouch was to hand. At great expense of time and energy, and for no remuneration, he helped youngsters like myself to make sure that the real needs of the people were not forgotten in the welter of party battle.

The Conservative Political Centre published an influential pamphlet: "Serving the Old". I wrote the text, and there were many contributors to the ideas; but the hand that guided my pen was that of David Crouch.

He published, in 1987, a delightful book, part recollection, part history, part philosophical reflection, A Canterbury Tale. It is now out of print, but somebody ought to revive it, so that readers can see how practicality and compassion can be combined.

Crouch was never very willing, like many of his generation, to talk about his war experience. But he served in London through the tortures of the Blitz, and for the whole of the six awful years. That period, I believe shaped his character, as it did that of many others. Memories, as A Canterbury Tale shows, formed an important part of the character of a considerable man.

David Lance Crouch, politician and marketing and public relations consultant: born 23 June 1919; MP (Conservative) for Canterbury 1966-87; Kt 1987; married 1947 Margaret Noakes (one son, one daughter); died Faversham, Kent 18 February 1998.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television The BBC have commissioned a series of programmes doing away with high-production values, commentary, script or drama
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
fashion
News
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
news
Sport
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable