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The creepy Mr CrippsThe Cripps VersionPeter ClarkeAllen Lane 25 pp574One day when he was a member of the wartime coalition Cabinet Stafford Cripps barged into Number 10 demanding an instant audience with Winston Churchill The great man was on the lavatory He grunted to his butler to tell Cripps to get lost I can only deal with one shit at a timeTo other contemporaries Cripps was a saint who was the only person to possess the talent and stature to replace Churchill as war leaderCripps is a fascinating character who played a hugely influential part in seminal events of the middle of the twentieth century And yet he has largely been ignored by historians Peter Clarke draws on unmined sources to issue a masterful corrective He examines the rollercoaster course of Crippss life with a sympathy for his subject which does not preclude rigour about his failingsImpeccable research is lucidly marshalled The human side is told well Cripps coupled a keenness for knitting with an enthusiasm for nude sunbathing neither considered normal for a man of that time Important chapters on Crippss role in cementing the anti-Nazi alliance with the Soviet Union and bringing India to independence will oblige other historians to recast their interpretationsAdmirable though this biography is it does not convince me that Cripps is to be all that admired In too many ways he personified why the British Left handed so much of the last century to the Conservative PartyCripps was born rich bred a Tory became wealthier still by marriage to the devoted Isobel and earned as a lawyer what he called fabulous and fantastic sums With a mansion in the country and a taste for luxurious cruising on the Med the Red Squire also known as the Red Admiral was dogged throughout his career with the charge of hypocrisy At one level he can be absolved of humbuggery In the 1948 Budget which heavily taxed his own class to finance
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