Lord Moser

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - GLO­RIA TESSLER


AMAN whose po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence equalled his stand­ing in the arts, Claus Moser was born and bred into Euro­pean cul­ture and was a de­voted sup­porter of many Jewish or­gan­i­sa­tions. With aca­demic hon­ours heaped upon him, the gov­ern­ment statis­ti­cian con­sid­ered mu­sic his over­rid­ing pas­sion. Moser was an ac­com­plished pi­anist whose gifts could have led to a pro­fes­sional ca­reer. In­stead he be­came an in­flu­en­tial chair­man of the Royal Opera House.

With an as­tound­ing cat­a­logue of ex­pe­ri­ence and tal­ents, Moser was a poly­math who com­bined pol­i­tics and the arts with supreme fi­nesse. His 20 years at the Lon­don School of Eco­nom­ics from 1940 brought him a pro­fes­sor­ship in so­cial statis­tics, but he held many other vis­it­ing pro­fes­sor­ships at Bri­tish uni­ver­si­ties. He was an aca­demic gover­nor of Is­rael’s Tech­nion and chan­cel­lor of Keele Univer­sity.

The LSE of­fered con­cert op­por­tu­ni­ties for his pi­ano ren­di­tions of Mozart and Bach and he also played cham­ber mu­sic at home with friends. Moser was in ev­ery sense a high­brow achiever of the old school, a re­flec­tion of the high cul­ture of his Ger­man back­ground. Like oth­ers of his era, he brought to Bri­tain the in­tel­lec­tual and as­pi­ra­tional qual­i­ties that Hitler tried to de­stroy.

One of the three sons of Lotte, a pi­anist, and banker Ernest Moser, the young Claus was sur­rounded by mu­si­cians in their home, and stud­ied pi­ano from the age of seven. But he was af­fected by the Nazi torch­light pro­ces­sion on the night Hitler came to power, wit­ness­ing the break­ing of Jewish shop win­dows and the en­forced wear­ing of yel­low stars. Ex­empted with a Jewish class­mate from hav­ing to give the Hitler salute, both chil­dren were sub­se­quently bul­lied.

In 1936 the fam­ily left Ber­lin for Bri­tain. Moser was sent to a pro­gres­sive, co-ed­u­ca­tional board­ing school, Fren­sham Heights in Sur­rey, where he was happy un­til he, his fa­ther and brother were ar­rested in May, 1940, and in­terned in Huy­ton, near Liver­pool. They en­livened their dour ex­pe­ri­ences by found­ing a “univer­sity of Huy­ton”, giv­ing classes and con­certs in Vi­en­nese style cafés.

Moser be­came as­sis­tant to a maths pro­fes­sor who con­ducted a sur­vey of the in­mates, which trig­gered his de­vel­op­ing in­ter­est in statis­tics. But de­spite th­ese dis­trac­tions, Moser could never for­give the hu­mil­i­a­tion his fa­ther suf­fered at the hands of petty of­fi­cials.

Moser’s sta­tus as en­emy alien pre­vented him join­ing the RAF, so he en­rolled at the LSE in 1943 and took the top First in his year. Af­ter fur­ther re­jec­tions by the RAF they even­tu­ally made him a flight me­chanic, later sergeant and fi­nally an in­ter­preter tour­ing Europe to in­spect RAF bomb dam­age.

In 1947 Moser took Bri­tish cit­i­zen­ship and be­came pro­fes­sor of so­cial statis­tics at the LSE in 1961. There he met Mary Oxlin who he mar­ried in 1949. He pub­lished a stan­dard text­book on so­cial sur­vey meth­ods in 1958 and a sta­tis­ti­cal study of Bri­tish

Lord Claus Moser: Euro­pean cul­ture vul­ture who moved be­tween the worlds of na­tional statis­tics and opera towns in 1961. At the LSE Moser be­came sta­tis­ti­cal con­sul­tant to the Rob­bins Com­mit­tee on Higher Ed­u­ca­tion (196164) and sub­se­quently mon­i­tored the Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Unit that de­vel­oped the com­mit­tee’s work.

In 1967 he left the LSE to di­rect the Cen­tral Sta­tis­ti­cal Of­fice (now Of­fice for Na­tional Statis­tics) and head the gov­ern­ment sta­tis­ti­cal ser­vice. His pro­fes­sional insight brought sev­eral in­flu­en­tial stud­ies into be­ing, as he grasped the need to place eco­nomic fore­cast­ing on more solid ground. His highly de­vel­oped math­e­mat­i­cal skills made him at­trac­tive to both Con­ser­va­tive and Labour gov­ern­ments; he served three prime min­is­ters — Harold Wil­son (whose Huy­ton con­stituency was iron­i­cally the scene of Moser’s in­tern­ment), Ed­ward Heath and Jim Cal­laghan. He was knighted in 1973.

But in June 1970, Wil­son blamed Moser for los­ing him the Gen­eral Elec­tion over the pur­chase of jumbo jets that month, which dis­torted the bal- ance of pay­ment fig­ures by sev­eral mil­lions. Moser re­fused to al­low the ex­pen­di­ture to be spread over the year, and as a re­sult the pub­lished fig­ures, show­ing Bri­tain £33 bil­lion in the red, swept Ted Heath’s Tories to power.

In 1978 Moser left White­hall to be­come vice chair­man of N M Rothschild. He set up links with the Cen­tral Bank of Sin­ga­pore, and rep­re­sented the bank on the board of Oc­to­pus pub­lish­ers, run by his child­hood friend Paul Ham­lyn. From 1984 to 1993 he was war­den of Wad­ham Col­lege, Ox­ford, and was ap­pointed pro-vice chan­cel­lor of Ox­ford Univer­sity from 1991-93.

Moser chaired the Royal Sta­tis­ti­cal So­ci­ety, the Econ­o­mist In­tel­li­gence Unit and the Bri­tish As­so­ci­a­tion for the Ad­vance­ment of Sci­ence. His firm be­lief in stronger links be­tween the arts and sciences was re­flected in his chair­man­ship of the Royal Opera House, suc­ceed­ing Lord Drogheda, which he held from 1974 to 1987, and at­tended nightly per­for­mances with his wife. He also served on the Royal Academy of Mu­sic’s gov­ern­ing body, the BBC Mu­sic Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee and the Lon­don Phil­har­monic Orches­tra and was also a devo­tee of the Amadeus Quar­tet.

But all arts in­sti­tu­tions were hit by a tsunami of cuts by the Thatcher gov­ern­ment and union clashes, which played into the hands of Covent Gar­den crit­ics, as stan­dards were com­pro­mised. Leav­ing the ROH, Sir Claus over­saw the ap­point­ment of Jeremy Isaacs as gen­eral di­rec­tor, who praised his re­spon­sive­ness to staff con­cerns.

Al­though he moved in élite cir­cles, Moser was a Labour sup­porter, apart from a brief flir­ta­tion with the So­cial Democrats. He strug­gled to make opera ac­ces­si­ble to the many by keep­ing ticket prices down in the midst of financial tur­bu­lence. He could not suf­fer small talk but his charm and wit put peo­ple at ease. He is sur­vived by Mary, his son and two daugh­ters.


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