JUDD, Frank (b.1935).



Portsmouth West
31 March 1966 - 28 February 1974
Portsmouth North
28 February 1974 - 3 May 1979


Frank Ashcroft Judd was born in Sutton, Surrey, on 28 March 1935, and was educated at the City of London School and the London School of Economics. He married Christine Elizabeth Willington in 1961.

He joined the Labour Party at 15, influenced by his father’s internationalism and his mother’s Labour activism. After unsuccessfully contesting Sutton and Cheam in 1959 and Portsmouth West in 1964, he was elected for Portsmouth West in 1966, which he held until 1974. Afterwards he represented Portsmouth North until he was defeated in 1979 by the Conservative Peter Griffiths.

During his time in the House of Commons served on the opposition’s front bench defence team (1972-1974), was Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Royal Navy (1974-76), Minister of Overseas Development (1976-79) and Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (1977-79). After he left the Commons he became Director of Oxfam from 1985 to 1991. He was made a life peer as the Baron Judd of Portsea in 1991.

Click here to listen to the full interview with Frank Judd in the British Library.

Transcript of clip

“I found [Harold Wilson] a very good man, and warm man. What I really enjoyed was that it was possible to have intellectual discussions with him about issues of significance. I remember when he was visiting Portsmouth, … I can see him in the back of our battered old two door Volkswagen, sitting on the back seat with one of my three year old kids on his knee, chatting away. Just lovely. He also was very personally understanding… When we had differing approaches to what was then the Common Market, both under Ted Heath, the vote to go in, and then later, his own referendum to confirm membership, he was absolutely understanding of my position which was that I saw it as too narrow, I saw it more like a greater nation state at that juncture and was very much in favour of developing EFTA, and our relationship with the Nordic countries… he understood and respected that point but I also had the view that there was a great need to regenerate British democracy by a process of decentralisation and I thought that was the greater need rather than concentrating more authority in Brussels… As his PPS, just imagine it, could that happen today in modern politics? I very much doubt it. Because he was having a free vote there I was at a party meeting and subsequently in the House at my usual seat just behind where he sits, making a speech, putting forward my view, and he was discussing my speech later the same evening, interested by the points I was making. A very interesting man, I felt really privileged to work with him those two years.”

Summary of interview

Track 1 [00:00:47] [Session one: 31 January 2012] Test track.

Track 2 [1:50:04] Frank Ashcroft Judd, Lord Judd [FJ], born Sutton, Surrey 28 March 1935. Description of first house, family background. Father had been in WW1 and RAMC [Royal Army Medical Corps], served as non-commissioned officer in Italy. FJ’s father [Charles Judd CBE] went to UCL to train as teacher and became first secretary of NUS in early 1920s. Describes Charles Judd’s political activism, headhunted for League of Nations union, met FJ’s mother [Helen Judd] who was in the Edinburgh branch of League of Nations university society. Charles Judd became first Director General of United Nations Association after WW2. [04:35] FJ describes how he grew up in this international atmosphere and political background. Tells story about his father in Geneva and CJ’s role in international diplomacy keeping lines open with Soviet Union during Cold War. [07:00] FJ’s mother’s role in adult education, rehabilitation work with prostitutes, lectured at LSE. Maternal grandfather had been Church of Scotland minister. Maternal grandparents were missionaries in India and this added to FJ’s international upbringing. [09:25] FJ did not rebel at all and became himself President of the UN student association in Britain. [10:30] Describes his time at City of London School which he loved despite Socialist ideals, describes Joe Hunt his history master who he looked up to. Became active in Labour league of youth. His mother had been a parliamentary candidate for Labour in 1945 and 1950 in Sutton and became a JP and Labour councillor.[12:10] FJ joined the Labour Party a year under age, aged 15. Influenced by father’s internationalism and mother’s Labour activism. Father from non-conformist family. [13:25] Describes religious upbringing, Christian cultural background. [14:25] Describes strong opinions of his family, arguments over Sunday lunch, political debates, states he was a prisoner of his upbringing. [15:20] Describes regret that issue of private education has not been tackled. [17:00] Describes insecurity because he doesn’t have authentic background associated with Labour Party values. Talks about the mixed social backgrounds of his classmates at LSE. [20:40] Memories of World War 2, how he found it exciting, could not imagine what the news would be about without the war. [24:04] How war informed his politics, embraced internationalism and peace-building. Fabian, cultural Christian background formed his ethics and his reformist socialism, working within the system rather than on the outside. [26:47] Expresses contempt for New Labour and states how it lost its way.[27:55] His brother [Stephen] was 7 years older and went to City of London, was evacuated during World War 2, describes his eccentricity. FJ’s brother became a teacher. FJ speaks of how he looked up to and admired his brother. Describes his brother hitting him for being rude to his mother. [31:20] Describes how he had a temper as a child and an incident when he locked himself in the bathroom and put his fist through the window. [33:00] FJ’s sister read Medieval History at University of London. FJ’s sister [Agnes] lived in Nigeria for over 30 years. [37:00] FJ’s middle name Ashcroft after his maternal grandfather’s surname. Describes his grandmother being taught by her grandparents in Glasgow. Grandmother married FJ’s grandfather aged 19. [42:00] FJ’s mother earned more than his father, describes financial security during his upbringing although not wealthy. [43:30] Describes how FJ and brother went to City of London but his sister did not go to private school, grandparents probably paid for their education. Description of family holidays. [46:00] Description of school friends at primary and secondary where he made life-long friends. Classmates included Brian Lapping and Anthony (Lord) Lester. His greatest friend from City of London was Joe Hunt his History Master. His friends from that time mostly not school friends or university friends but through other organisations, was in Cubs and Scouts. [49:30] Description of school and university experience, not strictly academic but involved and engaged with the institutions, won contribution to school award. [51:30] Describes passage from City of London to LSE, studying Sociology and Economics and involvement in student politics. Story about how the socialist society wanted to run against him because he was not left-wing enough and how throughout his career he was seen increasingly left-wing. [57:05] Describes National Service officer work. [57:50] Early release from National Service to stand in 1959 election, youngest Labour candidate. Description of conflicts in National Service station, FJ accused of bringing in political issues. [1:04:50] Description of meeting his wife, Christine, at a party in Bexleyheath. Married four years later in 1961. [1:07:40] Description of first selection for Sutton Parliamentary seat 1959. [1:12:05] Description of his and Christine’s first home together. [1:13:40] Mentions his wife’s early work, and that Michael Meacher came to work for her as an intern. [1:14:15] FJ states that he never had an ambition to be an MP, but his experience as a candidate in Sutton and Cheam gave him a taste for it, found the campaign fun. [1:17:20] Description of being put on ‘List B’ to be shortlisted as parliamentary candidate elsewhere. Shortlisted for Portsmouth, liked the constituency so worked hard to be selected. Fought 1964 election, was advised to find a safe seat to stand in but chose to stand again. First elected 1970. [1:23:15] Description of first experience in House of Commons after campaign. Story of Labour colleague welcoming him to House of Commons and advising him that all MPs are ambitious, careerist. Description of cross-bench friends, getting on with political opponents. Closest friend in Labour Party was Joan Lester, with whom he formed a discussion group, with Margaret Beckett too. Called the Non Group to distinguish from factional groups like Tribune group, but was left of centre. [1:29:00] Description of FJ’s constituency friends in Portsmouth, including agent in 1966, David Hughes. Long description of constituency friend Bill Sargent, priest in Portsmouth parish. [1:34:33] Description of time spent in constituency at weekends. [1:35:25] Became PPS within 2 years of being elected. Description of his enjoyment of being a minister, but also his community in Portsmouth, never felt part of Westminster club. Description of casework, constituency demographics in Portsmouth, his wife Christine running his office and administration. [1:39:50] Description of Public Accounts Committee 1967 and becoming PPS to Tony Greenwood. Description of speech made after election defeat in 1970 which led to him being selected to be Harold Wilson’s PPS. [1:42:15] Description of FJ’s fondness for Harold Wilson and Wilson’s office and staff. [1:43:35] Description of Harold Wilson’s (platonic) relationship with Marcia [Williams, Wilson’s political secretary]. [1:44:30] Description of FJ’s input into Harold Wilson’s speeches, parliamentary questions and talking over certain issues. [1:45:20] Anecdote about Harold Wilson’s desire to join EC and FJ’s euroscepticism expressed in a speech which Wilson praised. Wilson’s praise was very pleasing for FJ. [1:49:10] Speaks of heartbreak at Harold Wilson’s Alzheimers.

Track 3 [00:00:37] [Session 2: 28 February 2012: takes place in Royal Gallery, House of Lords, with background noise] Test track.

Track 4 [1:20:58] [0.30] Description of work as PPS to Harold Wilson, with Charles Morris who was also PPS. Story of Harold Wilson visiting Portsmouth and intellectual discussions. Description of Harold Wilson’s respect for FJ’s opposite position on Europe to him. [4:35] Description of other political friends including Tony Greenwood and Joan Lester. [6:45] Description of relationship with Tony Benn. [9:30] Anecdote about ‘Mr Benn’ cartoon and Tony Benn’s sending cartoon to FJ’s children with their faces stuck over. Details falling out with Tony Benn over aftermath of EC referendum, and his own take on European Community/European Union. [15:40] Description of sadness at Shirley William’s defection. His parliamentary pair was Clive Bossom. [17:00] Description of promotion to Shadow Defence team, Shadow Minister for the Navy. Became Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Defence for the Navy after election victory 1974. James Callaghan promoted him to Parliamentary Secretary for Overseas Development. Became Minister for Overseas Development after Reg Prentice resigned. Tony Crosland was FJ’s boss. [20:00] Description of trying to retain budget for development. [22:00] Anecdote of being summoned to Downing Street to be informed of Reg Prentice’s resignation. [24:20] Description of parliamentary questions. Goes on to finish story of being summoned to Downing Street to be promoted by James Callaghan. [30:00] Anecdote about Tony Crosland’s support in conflicts between his department and Treasury which made FJ feel much more positively towards him. [34:08] Anecdote about James Callaghan, portrays him as light-hearted and wise. [35:00] Discussion of transition from Wilson to Callaghan administrations, how he found out that Wilson resigned. Indicates having doubts about his ministerial career because of policy. [36:30] Expands on these doubts, in particular being alerted by an Admiral about government continuing to sell arms to Chile after Pinochet coup despite saying they had stopped. FJ found this very politically uncomfortable. Led to conflicts with Secretary of State for Defence (Roy Mason) over the Chile issue and FJ had to take it to the Prime Minister (Harold Wilson). [46:10] Description of how he threatened resignation over this matter, shortly before Harold Wilson resigned. [47:30] Description of being summoned to 10 Downing Street by James Callaghan who moved him to Overseas Development because of the issues he had with selling arms to Chile. FJ unsure whether the policy of selling arms to Chile went on or not, did not ask about it after moving to Overseas Development. [53:00] Talks of Tony Crosland dying, his transfer to Foreign Office (Overseas Development) and discusses whether resignation over the Chile issue would have been effective. [55:00] Comparison between sense of foreboding about 1975 EC referendum and that of 1979 general election. [57:31] Description of how he held seat in 1974 because of strong Liberal vote but this collapsed in 1979 and as a result FJ lost election. [58:04] Talks of David Owen who was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and FJ’s superior, describes how he held ministerial group meetings not just about foreign affairs but cabinet issues in general. FJ found David Owen arrogant and dismissive of him for putting across his constituents’ concerns. [1:00:53] Claims Callaghan could have won 1979 election, compares his mistakes to Gordon Brown’s mistakes in 2010. [1:01:26] Description of losing 1979 election and the party that had been organised for his victory and how FJ’s life changed having lost both ministerial role and parliamentary seat. [1:03:45] Description of Buckingham Palace visit for defeated MPs where everyone was relieved to have lost their seat. [1:04:40] Description of conversation with the Queen, of whom he formed a higher regard the more he met her. The Queen gave FJ photographs that she had taken of FJ and her private secretary with a note. At the Palace the Chief Whip also offered him a peerage which FJ turned down. [1:09:47] Describes the thirteen years between losing his seat and becoming a peer which he enjoyed, international human rights work in particular, and was approached several times to become a peer. Decided to accept when FJ was Director for Oxfam when Neil Kinnock asked. [1:11:40] Description of relationship with Neil Kinnock, FJ had known Glenys Kinnock well (Neil’s wife). Expresses sadness at Neil Kinnock losing general election in 1992. [1:15:37] Talks of why he did not seek another seat after losing 1979 election. [1:16:10] Brief description of his Lords career, what he uses his seat in the Lords for, what he enjoys about it, how he doesn’t see it as a duplicate of the Commons. FJ states that he felt he was recruited to Lords as Director of Oxfam.