THE DIARIES OF A CABINET MINISTER: Volume I, Minister of Housing 1964-66 by Richard Crossman

THE DIARIES OF A CABINET MINISTER: Volume I, Minister of Housing 1964-66

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Richard Crossman (1907-1974) was a New Statesman editor for over three decades, a psychological warfare supervisor during WW II, and a leader of the Labor Party left wing after the war. These diaries are the first of three volumes he dictated during his tenure in Harold Wilson's Labor government. They have generated a fierce flap in Britain, as much for their existence as their content, since internal discussions of policy and political tactics are traditionally sealed off from the public--and Crossman not only makes candid references to the personal habits of colleagues like the sometime No. 2 Labor leader George Brown, but lays out such cabinet debates as the July 1966 blowup over Wilson's deflationary program. The leitmotif of the diaries is Britain's poverty, the need to obtain Ford Foundation funds for housing projects, the pressure to win ""the confidence of foreign bankers,"" and the dreariness of British towns (""What can one do about it? Not much""). At the outset Crossman decries his government's ""fantastically rigid adherence to basic programs we had inherited from the Tories,"" and his often toadyish relationship with Wilson does not prevent him from protesting when Wilson undertakes foreign policy ""stunts"" instead of plowing home ground. The book affords a remarkable anatomy of the fluctuating distribution of powers and spheres among the inner and outer Cabinets and the ministries with their entrenched civil servants. It also draws an uncommonly real picture of a self-mocking technocrat who always kept one finger on the pulse of the party base. It must be mentioned that unfortunately, this is the sort of book requiring an especially well-structured index, and it has been given an especially poor one. An acute picture of the period that will be a valuable reference source.

Pub Date: Aug. 26th, 1976
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston