Generally remembered as a notorious diarist rather than a serious political figure, Richard Crossman's six years as minister during the 1964-1970 Labour governments proved, not least to himself, a disappointment. While his imposing presence in Harold Wilson's Cabinet brought radical proposals including the wholesale reform of Parliament, the absence of any substantial legislative legacy have let Crossman's political actions fade undeservedly into obscurity. However, in this new assessment of Richard Crossman, Stephen Thornton argues that Crossman's commitment to welfare reform makes him of the most important figures in the postwar history of the British welfare state. From 1955 to the end of his life in 1974, Crossman was committed to a radical scheme that promised to break Britain free from the existing Beveridge model of welfare provision. This scheme involved relating contributions and benefits to earnings, and would have transformed the social security regime in the UK. That the central pillar of Crossman's project, an earnings-related pension scheme designed for all, failed to be implemented during his period in government partly explains the common perception of his political failure. Yet, as this book explains, despite this particular defeat, Crossman's story should not be ignored. Crossman's actions did prompt modifications to both Labour and, more surprisingly, Conservative social security policy, and these changes were to prove highly significant. Moreover, the defeat of Crossman's pension scheme is, in itself, an interesting tale. Crossman himself considered it, 'a story rich in lessons'. Here Stephen Thornton rehabilitates Crossman's reputation as a towering figure of the patrician Left. He argues that more than a figure of enduring interest, Crossman's project of welfare reform remains valid and in the era of New Labour the lessons Crossman learned are more valuable and relevant than ever.
Richard Crossman and the Welfare State
Pioneer of Welfare Provision and Labour Politics in Post-war Britain