Tributes to Denis Healey

Denis Healey was the first Chancellor of the Exchequer that I can ever remember. The 1970s when I was growing up seemed like very scary times and he seemed to be a wise and calm presence in all of that. It was only later that I truly understood the pressure he must have been under, even greater than Alistair Darling faced in 2008. Balancing the competing requirements of the International Monetary Fund and the trade unions and labour movement was not an easy job.

I remember that epic political battle between him and Tony Benn for the Deputy Leadership of Labour. It seemed to me as a 13 year old to go on for ever, far longer than the Labour leadership election seemed in 2010 or this year. The result when it came was knife-edge thin.

It seemed like such a nasty, hostile fight then, but it was good to hear that the two men were personally reconciled and that Tony Benn had been a great support to Healey five years ago when his wife Edna died. In fact, Healey had campaigned for Benn in Chesterfield during the 1984 by-election, saying at the time that:

Healey without Benn would be like Torvill without Dean. I can’t get the bugger off my back

Tim Farron has paid tribute to Denis Healey on Twitter tonight:

Paddy had a particularly unique memory to share:

Thoughts are with his family and friends.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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14 Comments

  • Eddie Sammon 3rd Oct '15 - 11:04pm

    I think it’s safe to say that I would have been a fan of Healey. I like Labour moderates (and radicals).

    This quote from 1997 made me laugh:

    “I invented Blairism, you know. I wrote an article in 1952 saying we should stop all this class war stuff and cosying up to the unions”. Such a big change in philosophy suggested as though it was nothing. 🙂 Good tale from Paddy!

  • According to the Guardian it was “squeeze the rich until the pips squeak” but he denied saying it. I’m sure I remember that he did, probably in the heat of the rhetorical moment at a Labour Party Conference, but my memory is fallible and it could be one of those phrases like Jim Callaghan’s “Crisis? What crisis?” that was semi-invented by the press.

  • I believe that he was Beachmaster at the Anzio landings in 1944 & stood for parliament in his Army uniform.

  • Jeez. You can never beat our Paddy when it comes to an anecdote about someone, can you??! 🙂

  • Every time Denis Healey’s name is mentioned I am reminded that today’s politicians simply do not compare. Imagine what Denis, in full rhetorical flight, would do to Cameron, Osborne and Johnson, and don’t even mention Salmond and Farage!

    Perhaps what made Denis Healey so remarkable was his fearlessness. He was never afraid to enter the lion’s den and mix it with some of the most belligerent people going. Not just Labour’s hard left, but the National Front on one occasion. Perhaps he perfected his technique on the beaches of Anzio!

    Denis was also unafraid to enter taboo territory, where others fear to tread. Indeed, he wrote a foreword to one of Andy Thomas’s crop circle books, untroubled by the sneering and derision that would inevitably be chucked at him by elements in the media.

    I never met Denis, but I did share a station platform with him once. This was the 1984 Portsmouth South byelection, and we were both traveling home. Denis walked up to a man in a turban, extended his hand, and said: “Are you a Sikh?” No doubt the conversation continued until the train arrived. Other senior politicians do occasionally talk to members of the public, but Denis did it without the protection of a single SPAD or minder. That is doing it in style.

  • Denis was an old boy of Bradford Grammar School – as was Tony Greaves and yours truly. A truly kind man with enormous intellect……. always generous with his time and kept contact with his roots……. As did Barbara Castle at the girls school. A giant Yorkshire oak has gone from the forest.

  • Ah – the man who talked with his eyebrows.

  • Eddie Sammon 5th Oct '15 - 11:39am

    Hi Jayne, I’m not sure. I know he was also a communist in his youth, but mostly I think he is known for his battles with the far left of his party.

  • Richard Underhill 5th Oct '15 - 12:32pm

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denis_Healey: OOPS
    “He was a Member of Parliament for 40 years (from 1952 until his retirement in 1992) and was the last surviving member of the cabinet formed by Harold Wilson after the Labour Party’s victory in the 1964 general election.”
    “After a short illness Healey died in his sleep at his home in Alfriston, Sussex, on 3 October 2015 at the age of 98”

  • A Social Liberal 5th Oct '15 - 11:31pm

    A giant of a man, with a sense of honour some policians today should look on and hang their heads in shame.

  • Leekliberal 6th Oct '15 - 7:55pm

    A man of great ability who sadly could never decide whether he wanted us in or out of the European Community.

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