338 Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, to Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister
Cablegram 30[A] LONDON, 17 February 1942, 5.59 p.m.
IMMEDIATE FOR THE PRIME MINISTER PERSONAL HIMSELF ONLY
Since Cripps' return from Russia  I have been in touch with him
and last night had a long conversation.  In addition to his
outstanding capacity he has character and guts, and is in my view
the hope of the side.
The Prime Minister invited him to enter Cabinet as Minister of
Supply (this is most confidential) but he declined unless the
structure of War Cabinet altered contending that as at present
constituted it is a quite inefficient instrument and working with
it no one could hope by his individual efforts to bring about a
satisfactory higher direction of the war.
In my view this attitude and opinion are fully justified.
The present position is that he is waiting on events which however
are moving rapidly, the fall of Singapore and the disastrous
episode in the Channel  having occurred since his conversations
These happenings have so shaken public confidence here in the
Prime Minister that in my view if he does not face a drastic
alteration in the structure and personnel of the War Cabinet there
will be considerable danger of [hiS]  defeat, not immediately
but after a certain lapse of time determined by the pace of war
The former is the consummation devoutly to be wished:
(a) [Because] reconstruction of War Cabinet under Churchill with
Cripps included down the lines he and I discussed last night and
were agreed upon would [provide] the best instrument to our hand
for efficient conduct of the war. The alteration to the structure
and personnel of the War Cabinet which we discussed I do not feel
at liberty to give you as the conversation was a personal one in
which we expressed our views very freely.
(b) Because Cripps in my opinion is the only man to succeed
If (a) achieved Cripps by his ability and personality would
establish himself as Churchill's successor as and when one was
If (a) not achieved but Churchill eventually had to go I do not
believe that Cripps would succeed him. At the moment having just
returned [from] his successful mission to Moscow which the people
believe resulted in bringing Russia into the war on our side and
following his admirable broadcasts Cripps' stock in the country is
Owing to his relations with the Labour Party before the war he is
not persona grata with it and has implacable enemies in its ranks.
He is also anathema to many sections of the Conservative Party.
Today these forces are powerless against him. Given time their
combined [subterranean machinations] will undermine his position
in the country.
Holding [the above views] I am doing what I can in an entirely
personal capacity and with the utmost discretion to further them.
I feel however that I should let you know what I am doing. While
we would properly resent any interference in our domestic politics
by the United Kingdom representative I feel strongly that the
pressent issue[s] far transcend any domestic issues and that I am
entitled to do anything I can to assist in finding a solution of
what is a question of vital importance to the Empire and in fact
to the world.
I need not stress how personal the foregoing is.