Saturday, October 03, 2015

Denis Healey (1917-2015)

W.G. Grace died at Mottingham in Kent in 1915. Two years later Denis Healey was born there.

Healey was one of the giants of politics in the early 1970s when I started to take an interest in it.

The best tribute and analysis of his career I have seen today is that by Michael White in the Guardian:
By 1945, Healey had already packed in a lifetime of experiences denied to future generations. A beach master in charge of logistics (US actor Lee Marvin was another) at the bloody Anglo-American Anzio landings in Italy (1944), Maj Healey would turn down a lieutenant colonelcy as well as an Oxford fellowship to study the philosophy of art in favour of politics. 
After making a ferocious class warrior’s speech at Labour’s pre-election conference in 1945 (“Your speech may have cost us victory,” he was warned) he narrowly failed to win Tory Pudsey in Clem Attlee’s landslide. 
Losing a marginal seat was probably a lucky escape. He became instead international secretary of the Labour party, nominated by party grandees Hugh Dalton, Harold Laski and Nye Bevan. 
It was a hugely important post when British Labour’s prestige was at its peak in the ruins of post-war Europe, and Healey quickly became a key adviser to the new foreign secretary, the powerful but unlettered Ernie Bevin, writing a stream of pamphlets articulating Bevin’s position against the neutralist and pro-Soviet Left.

1 comment:

Phil Beesley said...

Denis Healey didn't join the SDP. Nor did Roy Hattersley. Two decent Old Labour types stuck with the party, and sticktion will keep decent people in the Labour Party today. Corbyn will not drive out people like them.

The circumstances of 1981 were that some liberals in the Labour Party were too liberal and social democratic for the party. So they walked, alongside a few opportunists.

Today's Labour Party has little room for liberals. Blair's liberal society is/was a managed society and there have been fewer instinctive liberals in the Labour Party for a long time.