Christopher Mayhew

Christopher Paget Mayhew, Baron Mayhew (12 June 1915 – 7 January 1997)[1] was a British politician 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.

Christopher Paget Mayhew
Member of the United Kingdom Parliament
for South Norfolk
In office
Preceded byJames Archibald Christie
Succeeded byPeter Baker
Member of the United Kingdom Parliament
for Woolwich East
In office
1951  October 1974
Preceded byErnest Bevin
Succeeded byJohn Cartwright
Personal details
Christopher Paget Mayhew

(1915-06-12)12 June 1915
Died7 January 1997(1997-01-07) (aged 81)
Political party
Spouse(s)Cicely Mayhew

Early life

Christopher Paget Mayhew was the son of Sir Basil Mayhew of Felthorpe Hall, Norwich.[2]

Mayhew attended Haileybury and Christ Church, Oxford, as an exhibitioner. In 1934 he holidayed in Moscow. While he was at Oxford, he became President of the Oxford Union. He was commissioned into the Intelligence Corps in 1940, rising to the rank of Major.

Political career

Mayhew was elected to Parliament for the constituency of South Norfolk in the general election of 1945.[3]

In 1945 Mayhew became Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign Office, where he served under Ernest Bevin. Mayhew lost his seat in 1950, but soon returned to Parliament after the death of Bevin, when he won the by-election in 1951 for Bevin's seat of Woolwich East.

During Labour's 13 years in opposition, from 1951 to 1964, Mayhew presented the Labour Party on television, both as a commentator on the BBC and as a presenter on Party Political Broadcasts. He introduced the first Labour broadcast, in 1951, in which he talked with Sir Hartley Shawcross. Mayhew also became known as one of the fiercest opponents of unilateral nuclear disarmament in the Labour Party. He also served as Shadow War Secretary from 1960 to 1961 and as a spokesman on foreign affairs from 1961 to 1964.

When Labour took office in 1964 Mayhew was appointed as Minister of Defence for the Royal Navy. However, in 1966, after the Wilson government decided to shift British airpower from carrier-based planes to land-based planes and cancel the CVA-01 aircraft carrier programme, Mayhew resigned along with the First Sea Lord, Sir David Luce.

In 1973 Mayhew offered £5,000 to anyone who could produce evidence that Nasser had stated that he sought to "drive the Jews into the sea". Mayhew repeated the offer later in the House of Commons (Hansard, 18 October 1973) and broadened it to include any genocidal statement by an Arab leader (The Guardian, 9 September 1974), while reserving for himself the right to be the arbiter of the authenticity of any purported statements as well as their meaning. Mayhew received several letters from claimants, each one producing one quotation or another from an Arab leader, all of which Mayhew deemed to be fabricated.

One claimant, Warren Bergson, took Mayhew to court. The case came before the High Court in February 1976. Bergson was unable to offer evidence of Nasser's alleged statement and acknowledged that, after thorough research, he had been unable to find any statement by a responsible Arab leader that could be described as genocidal.

Move to Liberal Party

Mayhew had been feeling increasingly uneasy with Labour policies under Harold Wilson and in 1974 he moved to the Liberals, being the first Member of Parliament to cross the floor to the Liberals in several decades. In the general election in October 1974 Mayhew contested Bath instead of Woolwich East in order not to split his former constituency party. He was defeated in Bath, which he also unsuccessfully contested in 1979.

On 6 July 1981 Mayhew became a life peer with the title Baron Mayhew, of Wimbledon in Greater London,[4] and became the Liberals' spokesman on defence in the House of Lords.

Other activities

Mayhew was also active as an advocate for the mentally ill and served as Chairman of MIND (National Association for Mental Health) from 1992 to 1997.

He wrote several books, including Publish It Not: The Middle East Cover-Up (co-written with Michael Adams, 1975) and his autobiography, Time To Explain (1987).

Panorama experiment

In 1955 Mayhew took part in an experiment that was intended to form a Panorama special for BBC TV, but was never broadcast. Under the guidance of his friend Humphry Osmond, Mayhew ingested 400 mg of mescaline hydrochloride and allowed himself to be filmed for the duration of the trip.[5] Samples of the audio were used in the psychedelic dance tracks "Mayhew Speaks Out" and "Christopher Mayhew Says" by the band the Shamen. Part of the footage was included in the BBC documentary LSD - The Beyond Within (1986).

Personal life

In 1949, he married Cicely Ludlam, whom he met when she was one of few women in the diplomatic service, and they had two sons and two daughters.[6]


  1. Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "N" (part 2)
  2. "King's Collections : Archive Catalogues : MAYHEW, Rt Hon Christopher Paget, Baron Mayhew of Wimbledon in Greater London (1915-1997) : 1-19: Papers". Retrieved 23 July 2016.
  3. Craig, F. W. S. (1983) [1969]. British parliamentary election results 1918–1949 (3rd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. p. 434. ISBN 0-900178-06-X.
  4. "No. 48673". The London Gazette. 9 July 1981. p. 9091.
  5. "SOTCAA". SOTCAA. 29 January 2004. Retrieved 23 July 2016.
  6. Michael Adams. "Obituary: Lord Mayhew | People | News". The Independent. Retrieved 23 July 2016.
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
James Christie
Member of Parliament for South Norfolk
Succeeded by
Peter Baker
Preceded by
Ernest Bevin
Member of Parliament for Woolwich East
1951October 1974
Succeeded by
John Cartwright
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