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Tighten your belts The Cripps Version The Life of Sir Stafford Cripps Peter Clarke 592pp Penguin Who is New Labours patron saint Aficionados claim Attlee anti-Blairites mutter MacDonald One name that doesnt get mentioned but should is Cripps Not only does he offer religion and the law Cripps can lay claim to the title of Britains leading pragmatist and consensus-builder of the 20th century who spoke simultaneously for middle England and the dispossessed A prime minister who is rightly embarrassed to claim the mantle of Nye and who has airbrushed Harold should surely feel comfortable with Stafford Cripps died half a century ago It has taken so long for an authorised study to be written because of his executors concern to do him justice In the 1970s exclusive access to diaries and other papers was granted to a distinguished historian who never completed his work As a result the door was closed to other scholars until Professor Clarke agreed to undertake the present work The result is a triumph of judicious argument and meticulous research which restores Sir Stafford to the plinth long reserved for him The author draws on many sources and is sharply critical when the evidence requires it This is important because Cripps was to put it mildly a rum character and there is a danger in taking him at face value Few political careers better deserve to be called meteoric and Cripps had a quicksilver quality The mans a saint was one commonly expressed sentiment His saint-like qualities included a simple Christian faith a penchant for nude bathing and raw vegetables and a Saint Sebastian-like commitment to self-defined principles At the same time one of Sir Staffords most remarkable gifts was his absolute belief that whatever position he took was the right one up until the point at which he changed his mind Unusually in top-flight politics Cripps was outstandingly successful before entering it After a Winchester
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