Christopher Mayhew

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Person.png Christopher Mayhew  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(propagandist, politician)
Christopher Mayhew.jpg
Born12 June 1915
Died7 January 1997 (Age 81)
Alma materChrist Church (Oxford)
Founder ofInformation Research Department

Christopher Paget Mayhew was a politician, broadcaster and writer who was a Labour Member of Parliament (MP) from 1945 to 1950 and from 1951 to 1974, when he left the Labour Party to join the Liberals. In 1981 Mayhew received a life peerage and was raised to the House of Lords as Baron Mayhew of Wimbledon.


In 1945 Christopher Mayhew was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign Office, where he supervised the creation of the Information Research Department, a worldwide British propaganda network operating against communism.[1]

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.[2]

Creation of IRD

In 1948 junior Minister 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 Richard 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.[3]

One Free World

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'."[4]


  1. "Death of the department that never was"
  2. Denis Healey, The Time of My Life (London: Penguin, 1989) p.106
  3. Paul Lashmar and James Oliver, (1998) Britain's Secret Propaganda War: Foreign Office and the Cold War, 1948-77, Stroud, Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing, p27.
  4. Lashmar and Oliver, Op cit. p. 28