Thursday, August 30, 2007

Denis Healey turns 90

One of the greatest politicians of Labour post-war history Denis Healey turns 90 today. While he was not without his faults, nevertheless he made a huge contribution to politics along with service over many decades to the Labour party. This is a politician who served for over 25 years in Shadow Cabinet and Cabinet including being Defence Secretary in 64 Labour government and as Chancellor in the seventies when he had to face economic problems on a scale unimaginable today.

The great shame was that he never became leader of the Labour Party, whilst he was unpopular in many sectors of the party I believe the party would never have suffered the crushing defeat that we did in 1983. I still think we would've have lost as the party was divided and Thatcher was making the most of the Falklands success but it would never have been on the scale it was and the Liberal/SDP would certainly have suffered(which is why some defectors voted for Micheal Foot in 1980 as they would not have had an excuse to defect under Healey). His success in winning the Deputy Leadership battle against Tony Benn in 1981 was now looking back a turning point in the parties history. While Dennis Healey was no angel himself and was a bruiser at least he generally spoke commonsense and had a sense of realism. If the party had been united behind Dennis and not spend so much time on internecine warfare over that period we might have got back into power earlier.

A few years ago I bumped into Denis Healey on a train to Victoria and managed to have a chat to him about the Labour Party and his career. The conversation was fascinating in terms of how far he went back along with his observations on new Labour.

Denis Healey is truly one of the great politicians of his generation and I wish him a Happy 90th Birthday.


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