Sir Stafford Cripps

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Sir Stafford Cripps, 1889–1952, British statesman. A brilliant and successful patent and corporation lawyer, he joined the Labour party in 1929 and became solicitor general in 1930, being knighted the same year. He resigned on the formation (1931) of the National government but won a seat in Parliament. He became a leading spokesman of the left wing of the Labour party and in 1939 was expelled from the party for urging a united front with the Communists. Sir Winston Churchill appointed (1940) him ambassador to the Soviet Union and, on Cripps's return to England in 1942, made him lord privy seal and leader of the House of Commons. In the same year Cripps was sent to India with a self-government plan (which was rejected by India). Shortly thereafter he became minister of aircraft production. In 1945, Cripps was readmitted to the Labour party and appointed president of the Board of Trade in the new Labour government. He returned to India to negotiate independence in 1946, and the failure of his mission (because of the antagonism between Hindus and Muslims) is often seen as the point at which the partition of India became inevitable. In 1947, Cripps was appointed to the newly created office of minister of economic affairs and within the same year became, in addition, chancellor of the exchequer. Great Britain was in the throes of a severe economic crisis, which Cripps sought to counter with his policy of austerity. By continuing rationing and imposing strict economic controls, he was able to slow inflation while maintaining full employment and without cutting back the government's welfare programs. Despite a vigorous export drive, however, Britain's balance of payments situation remained serious, and in 1949, Cripps most reluctantly devalued the pound by 30%. He retired in 1950.

See study by R. Moore (1979).

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Cripps, Sir Stafford (1889–1952). Cripps was a successful barrister before he was appointed Labour solicitor-general in 1930. Along with Lansbury and Attlee, he became the most important Labour MP to survive the 1931 electoral débâcle. The economic crisis converted Cripps to socialism and he took the leadership of the Socialist League. His energetic advocacy of first the ‘Unity Campaign’ and later the ‘Popular Front’ made Cripps prominent but earned him expulsion from the Labour Party in 1939.

During the war, Cripps rose to the fore after the success of his ambassadorship to Russia, although the failure of his subsequent mission to India—perhaps a deliberate ploy by Churchill to discredit him—checked his advance. In 1945 Attlee appointed Cripps president of the Board of Trade (1945–7) and then chancellor of the Exchequer (1947–50). These jobs he carried out with his characteristic emphasis on self-sacrifice and austerity. His powers of persuasion and sheer moral authority enabled him to arrange a voluntary wage freeze with the unions and a hold on dividends, which was maintained for two years. His dedication and rigorous working schedule forced his resignation in 1950, and he died soon after.

Lewis Mates

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Cripps, Sir (Richard) Stafford (1889–1952) British statesman. He belonged to the left wing of the Labour Party and was ambassador to Russia (1940–42), later serving in Winston Churchill's war cabinet. As chancellor of the exchequer (1947–50) in the reforming government of Attlee, he played a significant role in reconstruction of the post-war economy.