A death and some juicy gossip for this Today in London History Bulletin.
London Walks connecting.
London Walks here with your daily London fix.
Story time. History time.
Teddy Roosevelt Junior – the son of the first President Roosevelt – and for the record the only General on D-Day to land by sea with the first wave of troops. At 56 he was also oldest man in the invasion. Anyway, Teddy Roosevelt Junior once said, “I have a huge appetite for gossip. I love gossip.”
So here’s a bit of gossip for you.
It’s February 19th, 1977. In political commentator Iain Dale’s phrase, “one of the big beasts of the Labour jungle” sets out across the River Styx. Well, big beasts…labour jungle is Iain Dale. River Styx is my add-on.
The big beast is Antony Crossland. He dies today. He was 58. He’d suffered a massive cerebral haemorrhage six days previously.
A quick Google will acquaint you with Antony Crossland’s biography and accomplishments. Suffice to say, nearly half a century later he’s still a force to be reckoned with. His ideas live on. In Dale’s phrase, he’s still a spiritual guiding light today in certain sections of the social democratic left.
He was Foreign Secretary when he died. But he made his biggest mark as Secretary of State for Education.
He liked to shock. So, for example, he vowed, “if it’s the last thing I do I’m going to destroy every fucking grammar school in England.” Yes, he masterminded and led the charge to the comprehensive school resetting of state school secondary education in this country.
But get to the gossip you say. And rightly so. According to Iain Dale – though it’s pretty much common knowledge – Antony Crosland was a man of prodigious sexual appetites and had numerous adulterous affairs, including one, reportedly, with Roy Jenkins. An even bigger beast in the British political jungle, Roy Jenkins was Home Secretary, Chancellor of the Exchequer, President of the European Commission and a member of the so-called Gang of Four – four prominent politicians who issued the Limehouse Declaration calling for the realignment of British politics, the next step of which was the formation of a brand new political party, the Social Democratic Party. And the idea that those two big beasts – Antony Crosland and Roy Jenkins – were lovers, well that’s especially tasty gossip – a dollop of special sauce that brings out all kinds of flavours when you get to the end of the Dictionary of National Biography entry on Antony Crosland and discover that it was written by Roy Jenkins. So let’s hear it for big beasts, be they the oldest man in the D-Day invasion and into the bargain the son of a president, or a couple of Big Hitter British politicians. They add to the gaiety of nations. So to speak.
You’ve been listening to the Today in London History podcast from February 19th. Emanating from www.walks.com – home of London Walks, London’s signature walking tour company. London’s local, time-honoured, fiercely independent, family-owned, just-the-right-size walking tour company. And as long as we’re at it, London’s multi-award-winning walking tour company. Indeed, London’s only award-winning walking tour company.
And here’s the secret: London Walks is essentially run as a guides’ cooperative.
That’s the key to everything. It’s the reason we’re able to attract and keep the best guides in London. You can get schlubbers to do this for £20 a walk. But you cannot get world-class guides – let alone accomplished professionals.
It’s not rocket science: you get what you pay for. And just as surely, you also get what you don’t pay for.
Back in 1968 when we got started we quickly came to a fork in the road. We had to answer a searching question: Do we want to make the most money? Or do we want to be the best walking tour company in the world? You want to make the most money you go the schlubbers route. You want to be the best walking tour company in the world you do whatever you have to do to attract and keep the best guides in London – you want them guiding for you, not for somebody else. Bears repeating: the way we’re structured – a guides’ cooperative – is the key to the whole thing. It’s the reason for all those awards, it’s the reason people who know go with London Walks, it’s the reason we’ve got a big following, a lively, loyal, discerning following – quality attracts quality.
It’s the reason we’re able – uniquely – to front our walks with accomplished, in many cases distinguished professionals: barristers, doctors, geologists, museum curators, archaeologists, historians, criminal defence lawyers, Royal Shakespeare Company actors, a bevy of MVPs, Oscar winners (people who’ve won the Guide of the Year Award)… well, you get the idea. As that travel writer famously put it, “if this were a golf tournament, every name on the Leader Board would be a London Walks guide.”
And as we put it: London Walks Guides make the new familiar and the familiar new.
And on that agreeable note…come then, let us go forward together on some great London Walks. See ya next time.