Christopher Mayhew

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Christopher Paget Mayhew (12 June 1915 - 7 January 1997) was a politician, broadcaster and writer. During his time at the Foreign Office, he supervised the creation the Information Research Department.

Early life

Mayhew was educated at Haileybury College, and Christ Church, Oxford. He was President, Oxford Union, 1937; employed by the Fabian Bureau; served in Territorial Army; served in World War Two in Surrey Yeomanry, Royal Artillery, Territorial Army, 1939-1945; service in British Expeditionary Force (BEF), Belgium and France, 1939-1940; served with British North African Forces, 1943, and Central Mediterranean Forces, 1943-1944; service with SOE (Special Operations Executive); Maj, 1944; served with British Liberation Army, North West Europe, 1944;

In his autobiography Denis Healey writes:

Chris Mayhew was one of the few socialists at Oxford in my time who never joined the Communist Party. He had been in the clandestine unit, Phantom, during the war, with Norman Reddaway, who became his private secretary and later head of the Foreign Office's so called Information Research Department...Two decades later he was my Navy Minister, and resigned over my decision to phase out the aircraft carriers, afterwards leaving the Labour Party and becoming a Liberal. [1]

Political career

Labour Party MP for South Norfolk, 1945-1950; Parliamentary Private Secretary to Rt Hon Herbert Stanley Morrison, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons, 1945-1946; Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, 1946-1950; broadcaster on current affairs, BBC Television, from 1950; Labour MP for Woolwich East (later renamed Greenwich, Woolwich East), 1951-1974; Minister of Defence (Royal Navy), 1964-1966; resigned in protest at cuts in the RN aircraft carrier programme, 1966; joined Liberal Party, 1974; Liberal MP for Greenwich, Woolwich East, Jul-Sep 1974; Liberal Party candidate for Bath, Oct 1974 and 1979; Vice Chairman, Liberal Action Group for Electoral Reform, 1974-1980; Chairman, Liverpool Victoria Staff Pensions Trustee Companies, 1976-1995; contested Surrey for election to European Parliament, 1979; contested London South West for European Parliament, Sep 1979; Liberal Party Spokesman on Defence, 1980-1997; President, Parliamentary Association for Euro-Arab Co-operation, 1980-1997; author of books on national and international politics; created Life Peer, 1981; President, Arab Non-Arab Friendship Foundation, 1992; President, Middle East International (Publishers), 1992-1997; Chairman of MIND (National Association for Mental Health).

Creation of IRD

In 1948 Mayhew was instrumental in the creation of the Information Research Department. IRD was not created openly with the knowing support of the Labour Cabinet. Rather the author of the paper which went to cabinet - Mayhew - was a Labour right winger and cold warrior. Mayhew dissembled to the cabinet about the purpose and function of the IRD by claiming that it was to be a 'third force' campaign, understood as policy intended by the left to be independent of both the US and the USSR. According to Mayhew himself:

I thought it was necessary to present the whole campaign in a positive way, in a way which Dick Crossman and Michael Foot would find it hard to oppose. And they were calling for a Third Force... so I recommended in the original paper I put to Bevin that we call it a Third force propaganda campaign.[2]

As Mayhew himself noted 'the turning point' was the speech of George Marshall the US secretary of State in June 1947. From 'the middle of 1947 onwards, decisions were taken towards uniting the free world, at the expense of widening the gap with the Communist world... our immediate objective changed, from "one world" to "one free world"'.[3]


  • Planned Investment: the Case for a National Investment Board (Fabian Society, London, 1939);
  • Socialist Economic Planning: the overall picture (Fabian Publications. Victor Gollancz, London, 1946);
  • What is Titoism?, with Cicely Mayhew (Batchworth Press, London, 1951);
  • 'Those in favour'... (television play, 1951);
  • Dear Viewer... (television play, 1953);
  • Men Seeking God (George Allen and Unwin, London, 1955);
  • Commercial television: what is to be done? (Fabian Society, London, 1959);
  • Coexistence plus: a positive approach to world peace (Bodley Head, London, 1962);
  • Britain's role tomorrow (Hutchinson, London, 1967); Party games (Hutchinson, London, 1969);
  • with various other authors, Europe: the case for going in (published for the European Movement, British Council, by Harrap, London, 1971);
  • Publish it not...: the Middle East cover up, with Michael Adams (Longman, London, 1975);
  • The disillusioned voter's guide to electoral reform (Arrow Books, London, 1976);
  • Time to explain: an autobiography (Hutchinson, London, 1987).



  1. Denis Healey, The Time of My Life (London: Penguin, 1989) p.106
  2. Paul Lashmar and James Oliver, (1998) Britain's Secret Propaganda War: Foreign Office and the Cold War, 1948-77, Stroud, Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing, p27.
  3. Lashmar and Oliver, Op cit. p. 28