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Off with her head

John Lloyd, 24 November 1988

Office without Power: Diaries 1968-72 
by Tony Benn.
Hutchinson, 562 pp., £16.95, October 1988, 0 09 173647 1
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... think so now (though that belief has been hard tested – especially when, after just losing to Denis Healey in Labour’s Deputy Leadership contest in 1980, he claimed in a television interview that he was the deputy leader of the Party, since more people had defected from it to form the SDP than made up Healey’s ...

Spookery, Skulduggery

David Runciman: Chris Mullin, 4 April 2019

The Friends of Harry Perkins 
by Chris Mullin.
Scribner, 185 pp., £12, March 2019, 978 1 4711 8248 8
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... passing generation of Labour heavyweights, from Benn himself to Barbara Castle and bruisers like Denis Healey and Eric Heffer. Its atmosphere derived from the lurid tales of spookery and skulduggery that emerged in the dying days of Harold Wilson’s premiership, when the longstanding suspicion that Wilson was a KGB plant led to rumoured attempts by MI5 ...

Nanny knows best

Michael Stewart, 4 June 1987

by Michael Leapman.
Unwin Hyman, 217 pp., £11.95, May 1987, 0 04 440006 3
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The Thatcher Years: A Decade of Revolution in British Politics 
by John Cole.
BBC, 216 pp., £12.95, April 1987, 0 563 20572 5
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Thatcherism and British Politics: The End of Consensus? 
by Dennis Kavanagh.
Oxford, 334 pp., £22.50, March 1987, 0 19 827522 6
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The New Right: The Counter-Revolution in Political, Social and Economic Thought 
by David Green.
Wheatsheaf, 238 pp., £22.50, March 1987, 0 7450 0127 0
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... established, and the election was decided by MPs alone. They voted 139 for Michael Foot, 129 for Denis Healey. This, to put it mildly, was asking for trouble: and the 1983 election duly delivered it. Few people can doubt that Mrs Thatcher would have faced a far more formidable foe in Healey, and it is not absurd to ...

Lessons for Civil Servants

David Marquand, 21 August 1980

The Secret Constitution 
by Brian Sedgemore.
Hodder, 256 pp., £7.95, July 1980, 0 340 24649 9
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The Civil Servants 
by Peter Kellner and Lord Crowther-Hunt.
Macdonald/Jane’s, 352 pp., £9.95, July 1980, 0 354 04487 7
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... and pique, Mr Callaghan insisted that he be dismissed, as a punishment for having asked Denis Healey questions about a confidential Treasury paper during a meeting of the House of Commons Expenditure Committee. The Secret Constitution is his revenge. It consists of a rather incoherent discussion of the power relationships between the prime ...

Post-Bourgeois Man

Peter Jenkins, 1 October 1981

Arguments for Democracy 
by Tony Benn, edited by Chris Mullin.
Cape, 257 pp., £6.95, September 1981, 0 224 01878 7
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by Francis Cripps, John Griffith, Frances Morrell, Jimmy Reid and Peter Townsend.
Pan, 224 pp., £1.95, September 1981, 0 330 26402 8
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... had not the slightest intention of carrying out their leftish programme of 1974, or, today, that Denis Healey is no kind of socialist. Why Socialism? Why Socialism in the 1980s? One reason given by Benn (which forms the main theme of Manifesto, the most coherent and comprehensive account of Bennism I have come across) is that Britain is unable to ...

Party Man

David Marquand, 1 July 1982

Tony Crosland 
by Susan Crosland.
Cape, 448 pp., £10.95, June 1982, 9780224017879
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... a betrayal. Crosland was not any old revisionist, after all. He was not a mere apparatchik, like Denis Healey, or a burnt-out case, like Douglas Jay. He was the revisionists’ guru – our teacher and mentor. We were what we were, in part at any rate, because of him. To watch him sulking in his tent, when the cause being fought over was, in ...


Clive James: Lord's Day, 7 February 1985

... Club tie to say so, and if television can’t abide reasoned arguments, why was he arguing? Denis Healey, a realist, called Lord Stockton’s speech ‘a lulu’, in the tones of one already planning a few lulus of his ...

Europe could damage her health

William Rodgers, 6 July 1989

The Challenge of Europe: Can Britain win? 
by Michael Heseltine.
Weidenfeld, 226 pp., £14.95, May 1989, 0 297 79608 9
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... and more hostile statement from the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee (drafted by Denis Healey), the idea was scorned of any union with countries opposed to socialist policies of full employment, public ownership and a planned economy. Monnet later wrote in his memoirs, ‘Britain had not been conquered: she felt no need to exorcise ...


Tam Dalyell: Questions for Mrs Thatcher, 23 July 1987

... I believed, and still believe, Madame Tashibekova. As an MP who beseeched James Callaghan, Denis Healey and finally Harold Wilson not to send the troops – particularly the Scots regiments – into Northern Ireland in 1969, and and was told it was a matter ‘only of a few weeks’, I understand how the Russians may have felt. They thought they ...

Harold, row the boat aground

Paul Foot, 20 November 1986

Memoirs 1916-1964: The Making of a Prime Minister 
by Harold Wilson.
Weidenfeld/Joseph, 214 pp., £14.95, October 1986, 0 7181 2775 7
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... and, except in occasional flashes of personal animosity (as against Herbert Morrison or Denis Healey), without much passion or enthusiasm. There is only one good joke, and it was made at Wilson’s expense by Aneurin Bevan. When Wilson announced with customary Yorkshire pomposity that he was ‘forged’ in that county, Bevan replied: ‘Forged ...


William Rodgers: Party Conference Jamboree, 25 October 1990

... formal monologues by Front-Bench speakers, some of whom had watched from the floor when, in 1976, Denis Healey, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, had fought to be given five minutes of Conference time to put his case. With red roses (pink next year?) being thrown to the delegates from the platform and ‘Jerusalem’ easing out ‘The Red Flag’ as the ...

Labour Blues

Ross McKibbin, 11 February 1993

Defeat from the Jaws of Victory: Inside Neil Kinnock’s Labour Party 
by Richard Heffernan and Mike Marqusee.
Verso, 344 pp., £9.95, November 1992, 0 86091 351 1
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... In doing so he was able to establish a ‘third camp’ between Benn, the challenger, and Denis Healey, the incumbent: a ‘refuge for beleaguered careerists of both Left and Right’. It was in this camp that the ‘soft left’, springboard for Kinnock’s leap to the leadership, was born. The second date was 1984 – the ...


Simon Hoggart, 24 April 1997

Michael Heseltine: A Biography 
by Michael Crick.
Hamish Hamilton, 496 pp., £20, February 1997, 0 241 13691 1
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... results in the Strangers’ Bar. In 1976 there were few Labour MPs who had been consulted by Denis Healey and probably even fewer who hadn’t been insulted for their intellectual shortcomings. One (possibly apocryphal) story about Roy Jenkins illustrates the point. He’d been persuaded by a Welsh colleague to hobnob with some of the lads. ‘Buy ...

Pure New Labour

Ross McKibbin: Three Groans for Gordon, 4 October 2007

... to control inflation throughout the economy is especially risky (he might have a word with Denis Healey about this) at a time when rates of inflation have been at a historic low, and made even more so by taxation policies for which he is definitely responsible. Tax under Brown has hitherto been very mildly redistributionary; but if we are to judge ...

Third Way, Old Hat

Ross McKibbin: Amnesia at the Top, 3 September 1998

... credit for it. Blair and Brown might ponder the fact that the last Labour Chancellor to do it was Denis Healey, and that led directly to the Winter of Discontent. Which brings us back to Frank Field and Gordon Brown’s money. Field’s departure from the Government did not cause a peep; not one minister or backbench MP defended him. This is very ...

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