Denis Healey: “his grandfather was a Catholic Fenian tailor in Belfast from whom he inherited his bellicosity…”

Before this one fades from the memory of the internet, here’s a mash up of the Daily Telegraph’s obit for Denis Winston Healey by my good friend and some time professional collaborator, John Pollock on Facebook:

The abiding memory of Healey as Defence Secretary was him standing with his back to the fire, the umpteenth gin in his hand, arguing points of strategy with the generals…Against Mrs Thatcher – whom he christened “Rhoda the Rhino” – and Sir Geoffrey Howe – whose questioning he scorned as “like being savaged by a dead sheep” – this was fine.

When he dismissed critics of his fiscal policies as “silly Billies” (an expression put into his mouth by the impressionist Mike Yarwood), this too drew laughter…Seeing the serried ranks of Kremlin old-timers on a visit to Moscow as shadow foreign secretary, he greeted them with: “Same old mafia again, I see!”…

Nor was he ever afraid to speak his mind; when asked on the BBC after the US-British invasion of Iraq in 2003 what he thought of Tony Blair’s claim that Saddam Hussein could have unleashed weapons of mass destruction at 45 minutes’ notice, he replied with a single word: “Shit.”…He took pride, too, in being rated by Lobby correspondents an even more expensive lunch guest than Roy Jenkins.

He reached the heights by managing to conceal from most of his colleagues how cultured he actually was…

Indeed it was impossible to spend an hour in his company without being aware – unless he chose to conceal it – of intellectual gifts which in Continental politics would have been seen as an immense plus…his grandfather was a Catholic Fenian tailor in Belfast from whom he inherited his bellicosity…

He helped re-establish democratic socialist parties in war-torn Europe, and develop Labour’s commitment to Nato.”

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty