Denis Healey

Denis Winston Healey, Baron Healey,[1] CH, MBE, PC, FRSL (30 August 1917 – 3 October 2015) was a British Labour Party politician who served as Secretary of State for Defence from 1964 to 1970, Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1974 to 1979 and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party from 1980 to 1983.

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. A major figure in the party, he was twice defeated in bids for the party leadership.

To the public at large, Healey became well known for his bushy eyebrows and his creative turns of phrase.

The Lord Healey

Denis Healey
Deputy Leader of the Labour Party
In office
4 November 1980 – 2 October 1983
LeaderMichael Foot
Preceded byMichael Foot
Succeeded byRoy Hattersley
Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
5 March 1974 – 4 May 1979
Prime MinisterHarold Wilson
Jim Callaghan
Preceded byAnthony Barber
Succeeded byGeoffrey Howe
Secretary of State for Defence
In office
16 October 1964 – 19 June 1970
Prime MinisterHarold Wilson
Preceded byPeter Thorneycroft
Succeeded byThe Lord Carrington
Member of Parliament
for Leeds East
In office
26 May 1955 – 9 April 1992
Preceded byConstituency established
Succeeded byGeorge Mudie
Member of Parliament
for Leeds South East
In office
14 February 1952 – 26 May 1955
Preceded byJames Milner
Succeeded byAlice Bacon
Shadow Cabinet positions
Shadow Foreign Secretary
In office
8 December 1980 – 13 July 1987
LeaderMichael Foot
Neil Kinnock
Preceded byPeter Shore
Succeeded byGerald Kaufman
In office
20 June 1970 – 19 April 1972
LeaderHarold Wilson
Preceded byAlec Douglas-Home
Succeeded byJim Callaghan
In office
11 October 1959 – 2 November 1961
LeaderHugh Gaitskell
Preceded byAneurin Bevan
Succeeded byHarold Wilson
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
4 May 1979 – 8 December 1980
LeaderJim Callaghan
Preceded byGeoffrey Howe
Succeeded byPeter Shore
In office
19 April 1972 – 4 March 1974
LeaderHarold Wilson
Preceded byRoy Jenkins
Succeeded byRobert Carr
Shadow Secretary of State for Defence
In office
1 April 1964 – 16 October 1964
LeaderHarold Wilson
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byPeter Thorneycroft
Personal details
Denis Winston Healey

30 August 1917
Mottingham, Kent, England
Died3 October 2015 (aged 98)
Alfriston, East Sussex, England
Political partyLabour
Edna May Edmunds
(m. 1945; died 2010)
Alma materBalliol College, Oxford
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom
Branch/service British Army
Years of service1940–1945
UnitRoyal Engineers
Battles/warsWorld War II
 • North African Campaign
 • Italian Campaign
 • Battle of Anzio

Early life

Denis Winston Healey was born in Mottingham, Kent, but moved with his family to Keighley in the West Riding of Yorkshire at the age of five.[2] His parents were Winifred Mary (née Powell; 1889–1988) and William Healey (1886–1977). His middle name honoured Winston Churchill.[3]

Healey had one brother, Terence Blair Healey (1920–1998), known as Terry. His father was an engineer who worked his way up from humble origins, studying at night school and eventually becoming head of a trade school. His paternal grandfather was a tailor from Enniskillen in Northern Ireland.

Healey's family often summered in Scotland throughout his youth.


Healey received early education at Bradford Grammar School. In 1936 he won an exhibition scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford, to read Greats. He there became involved in Labour politics, although he was not active in the Oxford Union Society. Also while at Oxford, Healey joined the Communist Party in 1937 during the Great Purge, but left in 1940 after the Fall of France.

At Oxford, Healey met future Prime Minister Edward Heath (then known as "Teddy"), whom he succeeded as president of Balliol College Junior Common Room, and who became a lifelong friend and political rival.

Healey achieved a double first degree, awarded in 1940.

Second World War

After graduation, Healey served in the Second World War as a gunner in the Royal Artillery before being commissioned as a second lieutenant in April 1941.[4] Serving with the Royal Engineers, he saw action in the North African campaign, the Allied invasion of Sicily (1943) and the Italian campaign (1943-1945), and was the military landing officer ("beach master") for the British assault brigade at Anzio in 1944.

Healey became an MBE in 1945.[5] He left the service with the rank of Major. He declined an offer to remain in the army, with the rank of Lieutenant colonel, as part of the team researching the history of the Italian campaign under Colonel David Hunt. He also decided against taking up a senior scholarship at Balliol, which would have led to an academic career.[6]

Political career

Early career

Healey joined the Labour Party. Still in uniform, he gave a strongly left-wing speech to the Labour Party conference in 1945, declaring, "the upper classes in every country are selfish, depraved, dissolute and decadent"[7] shortly before the general election in which he narrowly failed to win the Conservative-held seat of Pudsey and Otley, doubling the Labour vote but losing by 1,651 votes.[8]

He became secretary of the international department of the Labour Party, becoming a foreign policy adviser to Labour leaders and establishing contacts with socialists across Europe. He was a strong opponent of the Communist Party at home and the Soviet Union internationally.[9] From 1948 to 1960 he was a councillor for the Royal Institute of International Affairs and the International Institute for Strategic Studies from 1958 until 1961. He was a member of the Fabian Society executive from 1954 until 1961.

Healey was one of the leading players in the Königswinter conference that was organised by Lilo Milchsack that was credited with helping to heal the bad memories after the end of the Second World War. Healey met Hans von Herwarth, the ex soldier Fridolin von Senger und Etterlin and future German President Richard von Weizsäcker and other leading German decision makers. The conference also included other leading British decisionmakers like Richard Crossman and the journalist Robin Day.[10]


Healey was elected to the House of Commons as MP for Leeds South East at a by-election in February 1952,[11] with a majority of 7,000 votes. Following constituency boundary changes, he was elected for Leeds East at the 1955 general election, holding that seat until he retired as an MP in 1992.

He was a moderate on the right during the series of splits in the Labour Party in the 1950s. He was a supporter and friend of Hugh Gaitskell. He persuaded Gaitskell to temper his initial support for British military action in 1956 when the Suez Canal was seized by the Nasser regime in Egypt, resulting in the Suez Crisis.[12] When Gaitskell died in 1963, he was horrified at the idea of Gaitskell's volatile deputy, George Brown, leading Labour, saying "He was like immortal Jemima; when he was good he was very good but when he was bad he was horrid". He voted for James Callaghan in the first ballot and Harold Wilson in the second. Healey thought Wilson would unite the Labour Party and lead it to victory in the next general election. He didn't think Brown was capable of doing either. He was appointed Shadow Secretary of State for Defence after the creation of the position in 1964.

Defence Secretary

Following Labour's victory in the 1964 general election, Healey served as Secretary of State for Defence under Prime Minister Harold Wilson. He was responsible for 450,000 uniformed servicemen and women, and for 406,000 civil servants stationed around the globe. He was best known for his economising, liquidating most of Britain's military role outside of Europe, and cancelling expensive projects. The cause was not a fiscal crisis but rather a decision to shift money and priorities to the domestic budget and maintain a commitment to NATO.[13] He cut defence expenditure, scrapping the carrier HMS Centaur and the reconstructed HMS Victorious in 1967, cancelling the proposed CVA-01 fleet-carrier replacement and, just before Labour's defeat in 1970, downgrading HMS Hermes to a commando carrier. He cancelled the fifth planned Polaris submarine. He also cancelled the production of the Hawker Siddeley P.1154 and HS 681 aircraft and, more controversially, both the production of the BAC TSR-2 and subsequent purchase of the F-111 in lieu. Of the scrapped Royal Navy carriers, Healey commented that to most ordinary seamen they were just "floating slums"[14] and "too vulnerable".[15]

He continued postwar Conservative governments' reliance on strategic and tactical nuclear deterrence for the Navy, RAF and West Germany and supported the sale of advanced arms abroad, including to regimes such as those in Iran, Libya, Chile, and apartheid South Africa, to which he supplied nuclear-capable Buccaneer S.2 strike bombers and approved a repeat order. This brought him into serious conflict with Wilson, who had, initially, also supported the policy. Healey later said he had made the wrong decision on selling arms to South Africa.[12]

In January 1968, a few weeks after the devaluation of the pound, Wilson and Healey announced that the two large British fleet carriers HMS Ark Royal and HMS Eagle would be scrapped in 1972. They also announced that British troops would be withdrawn in 1971 from major military bases in South East Asia, "East of Aden", primarily in Malaysia and Singapore[16][17] as well as the Persian Gulf and the Maldives. However the next Prime Minister Edward Heath sought to reverse this policy, and the forces were not fully withdrawn until 1976.

Healey also authorised the expulsion of Chagossians from the Chagos Archipelago and authorised the building of the United States military base at Diego Garcia. Following Labour's defeat in the 1970 general election, he became Shadow Defence Secretary.

Shadow Chancellor and Chancellor

Healey was appointed Shadow Chancellor in April 1972 after Roy Jenkins resigned in a row over the European Economic Community (Common Market). At the Labour Party conference on 1 October 1973, he said, "I warn you that there are going to be howls of anguish from those rich enough to pay over 75% on their last slice of earnings".[18] In a speech in Lincoln on 18 February 1974, Healey went further, promising he would "squeeze property speculators until the pips squeak." He alleged that Lord Carrington, the Conservative Secretary of State for Energy, had made £10m profit from selling agricultural land at prices 30 to 60 times as high as it would command as farming land.[19] When accused by colleagues including Eric Heffer of putting Labour's chances of winning the next election in jeopardy through his tax proposals, Healey said the party and the country must face the consequences of Labour's policy of the redistribution of income and wealth; "That is what our policy is, the party must face the realities of it".[20]

Healey became Chancellor of the Exchequer in March 1974 after Labour returned to power as a minority government. His tenure is sometimes divided into Healey Mark I and Healey Mark II.[21] The divide is marked by his decision, taken with Prime Minister James Callaghan, to seek an International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan and submit the British economy to IMF supervision. The loan was negotiated and agreed in November and December 1976, and announced in Parliament on 15 December 1976.[22][23] Within some parts of the Labour Party the transition from Healey Mark I (which had seen a proposal for a wealth tax) to Healey Mark II (associated with government-specified wage control) was regarded as a betrayal. Healey's policy of increasing benefits for the poor meant those earning over £4,000 per year would be taxed more heavily. His first budget saw increases in food subsidies, pensions and other benefits.[24]

When Harold Wilson stood down as Leader of the Labour Party in 1976 Healey stood in the contest to elect the new leader. On the first ballot he came only fifth out of six candidates. However, he also contested the second round, coming third of the three candidates but increasing his vote somewhat.

Shadow Cabinet and Deputy Leader

Labour lost the general election to the Conservatives (led by Margaret Thatcher) in May 1979, following the Winter of Discontent during which Britain had faced a large number of strikes. On 12 June 1979 Healey was appointed a Companion of Honour.[25] Healey won the most votes in the 1979 Shadow Cabinet elections which followed and The Glasgow Herald suggested that this showed that he was the "strongest contender" to succeed Callaghan as Party Leader.[26]

When Callaghan stood down as Labour leader in November 1980, Healey was the favourite to win the Labour Party leadership election, decided by Labour MPs. In September an opinion poll had found that when asked who would make the best Prime Minister if Healey were Labour leader, 45% chose Healey over 39% for Thatcher.[27] However, he lost to Michael Foot. He seems to have taken the support of the right of the party for granted; in one notable incident, Healey was reputed to have told the right-wing Manifesto Group they must vote for him as they had "nowhere else to go". When Mike Thomas, the MP for Newcastle East defected to the Social Democratic Party (SDP), he said he had been tempted to send Healey a telegram saying he had found "somewhere else to go". Four Labour MPs who defected to the SDP in early 1981 later said they voted for Foot in order to give the Labour Party an unelectable left-wing leader, thus helping their newly established party.[28]

Healey was returned unopposed as deputy leader to Foot, but the next year was challenged by Tony Benn under the new election system, one in which individual members and trades unions voted alongside sitting members of parliament. The contest was seen as a battle for the soul of the Labour Party, and long debate over the summer of 1981 ended on 27 September with Healey winning by 50.4% to Benn's 49.6%.[29] The narrowness of Healey's majority can be attributed to the Transport and General Workers' Union (TGWU) delegation to the Labour Party conference. Ignoring its members, who had shown two-to-one majority support for Healey, it cast the union's block vote (the largest in the union section) for Benn. A significant factor in Benn's narrow loss, however, was the abstention of 20 MPs from the left-wing Tribune Group,[30] which split as a result. Healey attracted just enough support from other unions, constituency parties and Labour MPs to win.

Healey was Shadow Foreign Secretary during most of the 1980s, a job he coveted. He believed Foot was initially too willing to support military action after the Falkland Islands were invaded by Argentina in April 1982.[12] He accused Thatcher of "glorying in slaughter", and had to withdraw the remark (he later claimed he had meant to say "conflict"). Healey was retained in the shadow cabinet by Neil Kinnock, who succeeded Foot after the disastrous 1983 general election, when the Conservatives bolstered their majority and Labour suffered their worst general election result in decades. Healey had declined to run as leader to succeed Foot as well as standing down as deputy leader.


His views on nuclear weapons conflicted with the unilateral nuclear disarmament policy of the Labour Party. After the 1987 general election, he retired from the Shadow Cabinet, and in 1992 stood down after 40 years as a Leeds MP. In that year he received a life peerage as Baron Healey, of Riddlesden in the County of West Yorkshire.[31] Healey was regarded by some – especially in the Labour Party – as "the best Prime Minister we never had".[32] He was a founding member of the Bilderberg Group.[33]

During an interview with Nick Clarke on BBC Radio 4, Healey was the first Labour politician to publicly declare his wish for the Labour leadership to pass to Tony Blair in 1994, following the death of John Smith. Healey later became critical of Blair. He publicly opposed Blair's decision to use military force in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.[12] In the spring of 2004, and again in 2005, he publicly called on Blair to stand down in favour of Gordon Brown. In July 2006 he argued, "Nuclear weapons are infinitely less important in our foreign policy than they were in the days of the Cold War", and, "I don't think we need nuclear weapons any longer".[34]

In March 2013 during an interview with the New Statesman, Healey said that if there was a referendum on British membership of the EU, he would vote to leave.[35] In May, he further said: "I wouldn't object strongly to leaving the EU. The advantages of being members of the union are not obvious. The disadvantages are very obvious. I can see the case for leaving – the case for leaving is stronger than for staying in".[36]

Following the death of Alan Campbell, Baron Campbell of Alloway in June 2013, Healey became the oldest sitting member of the House of Lords.[37] Following the death of John Freeman on 20 December 2014, Healey became the surviving former MP with the earliest date of first election, and the second-oldest surviving former MP, after Ronald Atkins.

Public image

Healey's notably bushy eyebrows and piercing wit earned him a favourable reputation with the public. When the media were not present, his humour was equally caustic but more risqué. The popular impressionist Mike Yarwood coined the catchphrase "Silly Billy", and incorporated it into his shows as a supposed "Healey-ism". Healey had never said it until that point, but he adopted it and used it frequently. Healey's direct speech made enemies. "At a meeting of the PLP I accused Ian Mikardo of being 'out of his tiny Chinese mind' – a phrase of the comedienne Hermione Gingold, with which I thought everyone was familiar. On the contrary, when it leaked to the press, the Chinese Embassy took it as an insult to the People's Republic."[38] The controversy may have contributed to a poor performance when he fought for the Labour leadership following Harold Wilson's resignation. He obtained 30 votes in the first ballot on 25 March, and 38 in the second on 30 March. He was eliminated from the election and supported James Callaghan in the final ballot on 5 April. Callaghan was elected as the new Prime Minister and leader of the Labour Party, and retained Healey as Chancellor.

His long-serving deputy at the Treasury, Joel Barnett, in response to a remark by a third party that "Denis Healey would sell his own grandmother", quipped, "No, he would get me to do it for him". On 14 June 1978, Healey likened being attacked by the mild-mannered Sir Geoffrey Howe in the House of Commons to being "savaged by a dead sheep".[39] Nevertheless, Howe appeared and paid warm tribute when Healey was featured on This Is Your Life in 1989. The two remained friends for many years, and Howe died only six days after Healey.

Personal life and death

Healey married Edna May Edmunds on 21 December 1945, the two having met at Oxford University before the war. The couple had three children, one of whom is the broadcaster, writer and record producer Tim Healey.[40][41] Edna Healey died on 21 July 2010, aged 92.[42] They were married for almost 65 years and lived in Alfriston, East Sussex.[43] In 1987, Edna underwent an operation at a private hospital – this event drawing media attention as being seemingly at odds with Healey's pro-NHS beliefs. Challenged on the apparent inconsistency by the presenter Anne Diamond on TV-am, Healey became critical and ended the interview.[44] He then jabbed journalist Adam Boulton.[45][46]

Healey was an amateur photographer for many years,[47] also enjoying music and painting and reading crime fiction. He sometimes played popular piano pieces at public events.[48] In a May 2012 interview for The Daily Telegraph, Healey reported that he was swimming 20 lengths a day in his outdoor pool.[49] Healey was interviewed in 2012 as part of The History of Parliament's oral history project.[50][51]

After a short illness Healey died in his sleep at his home in Alfriston, Sussex, on 3 October 2015, at the age of 98.[52][53] In 2017, his personal archives were deposited at the Bodleian Library.[54]

Titles and styles

  • 1917–1945: Mr Denis Healey
  • 1945–1952: Mr Denis Healey MBE
  • 1952–1964: Mr Denis Healey MBE MP
  • 1964–1979: The Rt. Hon. Denis Healey MBE MP
  • 1979–1992: The Rt. Hon. Denis Healey CH MBE MP
  • 1992: The Rt. Hon. Denis Healey CH MBE
  • 1992–2015: The Rt. Hon. The Lord Healey CH MBE PC


Ribbon Name Notes
Order of the Companions of Honour Ribbon Order of the Companions of Honour 12 June 1979 CH
Order of the British Empire (Military) Ribbon Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire 13 December 1945 MBE


Healey is credited with popularising in the UK a proverb which became known as Healey's First law of holes.[55][56] This is a minor adaptation of a saying apparently originated by Will Rogers.

In popular culture

Film, television and theatre

Denis Healey appearing on "After Dark", 3 June 1989
Appearing on television discussion programme After Dark in 1989

Healey is the only Chancellor to have appeared on BBC One's Morecambe and Wise Show.[57] In 1986 he appeared in series one of Saturday Live. He was portrayed by David Fleeshman in the 2002 BBC production of Ian Curteis's The Falklands Play. He appeared on The Dame Edna show in the song and dance number "You either have or you haven't got style" alongside Roger Moore.

Healey was satirised in the ITV series Spitting Image, his caricature mainly focused on his famous eyebrows, and the real Healey appeared in the thirteenth and final episode of the programme's first series in 1984. The iconic eyebrows were similarly parodied in the 1977 serial The Sun Makers from the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, in which the antagonist known as the Collector is distinguished by having similarly bushy eyebrows to Healey.

The British nickname "Silly Billy" was also popularised in the 1970s by impressionist Mike Yarwood, putting it in the mouth of the Chancellor, Denis Healey, who took the catchphrase up and used it as his own.[58]

In 1994, Healey appeared in a TV advertisement for Visa Debit cards. This was banned by the Independent Television Commission as it contained a reference to a scandal, subsequently revealed to be a fabrication, involving Norman Lamont's personal life. Healey had appeared in an advert for Sainsbury's in the previous year.[59]


During Led Zeppelin's 1975 and 1977 concert tours, Robert Plant facetiously dedicated the song "In My Time of Dying" to Healey for the tax exile issues the band was facing. During Yes's recording of what was to become the album Tormato (1978), there was an outtake called "Money", on which the Yes keyboardist at the time, Rick Wakeman, provides a satirical voice-over parodying Healey.[60]


Healey's publications include: Healey's Eye (photography, 1980), The Time of My Life (his autobiography, 1989), When Shrimps Learn to Whistle (1990), My Secret Planet (an anthology, 1992), Denis Healey's Yorkshire Dales (1995) and Healey's World (2002).


  1. ^ "House of Lords, Official Website – Lord Healey". Retrieved 5 July 2013.
  2. ^ Hookham, Mark (3 December 2008). "Denis Healey: 'The best Prime Minister we never had'". Yorkshire Evening Post. Retrieved 26 April 2010.
  3. ^ Kaufman, Gerald (13 March 2000). "Debates for 13 Mar 2000 (pt 20)". Hansard. London, England, UK: House of Commons. Retrieved 31 January 2009.
  4. ^ "No. 35163". The London Gazette (Supplement). 13 May 1941. p. 2801.
  5. ^ "No. 37386". The London Gazette (Supplement). 13 December 1945. p. 6064.
  6. ^ Healey 1989, p69
  7. ^ M.Andrews. 'Life in the shadow of Victory' in History Mag (BBC), Jan 2015, p 31-2
  8. ^ Craig, F. W. S. (1983) [1969]. British parliamentary election results 1918–1949 (3rd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. ISBN 978-0-900178-06-1.
  9. ^ Lawrence Black, "'The Bitterest Enemies of Communism': Labour Revisionists, Atlanticism and the Cold War." Contemporary British History 15#3 (2001): 26-62.
  10. ^ Long Life: Presiding Genius, Nigel Nicolson, 15 August 1992, The Spectator, Retrieved 28 November 2015 ]
  11. ^ "1952 By Election Results". Archived from the original on 25 February 2012. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  12. ^ a b c d McKie, David. "Lord Healey obituary". The Guardian. London.
  13. ^ Edward Longinotti, "Britain's Withdrawal from East of Suez: From Economic Determinism to Political Choice." Contemporary British History 29#3 (2015): 318-340. DOI
  14. ^ D. Healey, Time of My Life (Penguin, 1990).
  15. ^ 1966 Defence Review.
  16. ^ "What Now for Britain?” The State Department’s Intelligence Assessment of the “Special Relationship,” 7 February 1968 by Jonathan Colman
  17. ^ P. L. Pham (2010). Ending 'East of Suez': The British Decision to Withdraw from Malaysia and Singapore 1964-1968. Oxford UP. p. 22ff. ISBN 9780191610431.
  18. ^ The Times, Tuesday, 2 October 1973; p. 1; Issue 58902; col A
  19. ^ The Times, Tuesday, 19 February 1974; p. 4; Issue 59018; col D
  20. ^ The Times, Thursday, 18 October 1973; p. 2; Issue 58916; col C
  21. ^ Michael StewartThe Jekyll and Hyde Years: Politics and Economic Policy since 1964 (1977).
  22. ^ [1] Archived 20 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ [2] Archived 20 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ Eric Shaw, The Labour Party since 1945 (1996)
  25. ^ "No. 47868". The London Gazette (Supplement). 15 June 1979. p. 7600.
  26. ^ Parkhouse, Geoffrey (15 June 1979). "Shore steps up as Owen is demoted". The Glasgow Herald. Retrieved 8 January 2019.
  27. ^ 'Mr Healey tops opinion poll in leadership vote', The Times (8 September 1980), p. 3.
  28. ^ Crewe, Ivor and King, Anthony, SDP: The Birth, Life and Death of the Social Democratic Party (Oxford University Press, 1995), pp. 74–75.
  29. ^ "Right-winger wins British election". The Galveston Daily News. Galveston, TX. United Press International. 28 September 1981. Archived from the original on 2 January 2019. Retrieved 1 January 2019 – via open access publication – free to read
  30. ^ Eric Heffer (1986). Labour's Future: Socialist or SDP Mark 2?. Verso. pp. 28–29.
  31. ^ "No. 52979". The London Gazette. 2 July 1992. p. 11141.
  32. ^ Sale, Jonathan (4 May 2006), "Passed/failed: An education in the life of Denis Healey, Labour peer", The Independent, archived from the original on 15 August 2007, retrieved 28 April 2009
  33. ^ Ronson, Jon (10 March 2001). "Who pulls the strings? (part 3)". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 4 July 2009.
  34. ^ "UK needs no nuclear arms – Healey". BBC News. 7 July 2006. Retrieved 13 January 2007.
  35. ^ Rafael Behr, ‘Denis Healey: “Thatcher was good-looking and brilliant”’, New Statesman (26 March 2013).
  36. ^ Michael Crick, ‘Healey: case for leaving Europe stronger than staying’, Channel 4 (9 May 2013).
  37. ^ "House of Lords, Official Website – Who is the oldest sitting Member of the House of Lords?". Retrieved 5 July 2013.
  38. ^ Denis Healey The Time of My Life Penguin 1990 p. 444
  39. ^ "ECONOMIC SITUATION, HC Deb 14 June 1978 vol 951 cc1013-142".
  40. ^ "Water way to splash out for charity". Oxford Mail. 17 May 1999. Retrieved 30 September 2015.
  41. ^ "Come on Lads: Canteen songs of World War Two", Beautiful Jo Records website . Retrieved 13 September 2008.
  42. ^ "Denis Healey's wife, Edna, dies aged 92". BBC News Online. BBC. 23 July 2010. Retrieved 23 July 2010.
  43. ^ "Denis Healey at 90", BBC News.
  44. ^ "BBC Politics 97".
  45. ^ "Adam Boulton: Sky's political editor on the channel's relaunch". The Independent. London. 24 April 2006.
  46. ^ Burrell, Ian (15 May 2010). "Adam Boulton: Just don't tell him what he thinks". The Independent. London.
  47. ^ – Denis Healey & Photography Archived 5 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  48. ^ "Denis Healey playing the piano at Huddersfield Town Hall", Science and Society, National Museum of Science and Industry, May 1987, retrieved 28 April 2009
  49. ^ Interview, Bryony Gordon, The Daily Telegraph (London), 8 May 2012, Accessed same day.
  50. ^ "Oral history: HEALEY, Denis Winston (1917-2015)". The History of Parliament. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  51. ^ "Lord Denis Healey interviewed by Mike Greenwood". British Library Sound Archive. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  52. ^ "Labour's Denis Healey dies at 98". BBC News. 2015-10-03. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  53. ^ "Denis Healey Dies Aged 98". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 4 October 2015.
  54. ^ Ffrench, Andy (28 July 2017). "Archive of Labour politician Denis Healey is deposited at the Bodleian". The Oxford Times. Retrieved 2017-08-01.
  55. ^ Apperson, George Latimer (2006) [1993]. The Wordsworth dictionary of proverbs. Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Ltd. p. 283. ISBN 978-1-84022-311-8.
  56. ^ "Interview: Denis Healey; Healey's First law of holes is to stop digging". New Statesman. 9. 8 November 1986.
  57. ^ "Denis Healey: The big man behind the big eyebrows". Yorkshire Post.
  58. ^ Andrew Marr (2009), A History of Modern Britain, p. 346
  59. ^ Macintyre, Donald; Williams, Rhys (17 March 1994). "ITC bans Healey joke in advert". The Independent. London. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  60. ^ Dave Lewis (2004), Led Zeppelin: The 'Tight But Loose' Files; Celebration 2, Omnibus Press, ISBN 1-84449-056-4, pp. 24–25.

Further reading

  • Black, Lawrence. "'The Bitterest Enemies of Communism': Labour Revisionists, Atlanticism and the Cold War." Contemporary British History 15.3 (2001): 26-62. Healey was a bitter enemy.
  • Callaghan, John. The Labour Party and foreign policy: a history (Routledge, 2007).
  • Dell, Edmund. The Chancellors: A History of the Chancellors of the Exchequer, 1945-90 (HarperCollins, 1997) pp. 400–48, covers his term as Chancellor.
  • Dell, Edmund. A hard pounding: politics and economic crisis, 1974-1976 (Oxford UP, 1991).
  • Heppell, Tim, and Andrew Crines. "How Michael Foot won the Labour Party leadership." The Political Quarterly 82.1 (2011): 81-94.
  • Insall, Tony. Haakon Lie, Denis Healey and the Making of an Anglo-Norwegian Special Relationship 1945–1951 (Unipub, Oslo, 2010).
  • Pearce, Edward. "Denis Healey" in Kevin Jefferys, ed. Labour Forces: From Ernie Bevin to Gordon Brown (2002) pp. 135–54.
  • Radice, Giles. The Tortoise and the Hares: Attlee, Bevin, Cripps, Dalton, Morrison (Politico's Publishing, 2008).
  • Reed, Bruce, and Geoffrey Lee Williams. Denis Healey and the policies of power (Sidgwick & Jackson, 1971).

Primary sources

  • Healey, Denis. The time of my life (London: Michael Joseph, 1989), autobiography
  • Pearce, Edward, and Denis Healey. Denis Healey: a life in our times (Little, Brown, 2002).

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
James Milner
Member of Parliament
for Leeds South East

Succeeded by
Alice Bacon
New constituency Member of Parliament
for Leeds East

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George Mudie
Political offices
Preceded by
Aneurin Bevan
Shadow Foreign Secretary
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Harold Wilson
New office Shadow Secretary of State for Defence
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Peter Thorneycroft
Preceded by
Peter Thorneycroft
Secretary of State for Defence
Succeeded by
The Lord Carrington
Preceded by
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Shadow Foreign Secretary
Succeeded by
Jim Callaghan
Preceded by
Roy Jenkins
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
Robert Carr
Preceded by
Anthony Barber
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
Geoffrey Howe
Preceded by
Geoffrey Howe
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
Peter Shore
Preceded by
Michael Foot
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Succeeded by
Roy Hattersley
Preceded by
Peter Shore
Shadow Foreign Secretary
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Gerald Kaufman
Party political offices
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Deputy Leader of the Labour Party
Succeeded by
Roy Hattersley
1952 Leeds South East by-election

The 1952 Leeds South East by-election was held on 7 February 1952. It was held due to the elevation to a hereditary peerage of the incumbent Labour MP, James Milner. It was retained by the Labour candidate, Denis Healey.

1966 Defence White Paper

The 1966 Defence White Paper (Command Papers 2592 and 2901) was a major review of the United Kingdom's defence policy initiated by the Labour government under Prime Minister Harold Wilson. The review was led by the Secretary of State for Defence, Denis Healey. The document was centred on the need to support NATO in Europe and made the commitment that the UK, "would not undertake major operations of war except in co-operation with allies." The 1966 announcements undertook to retain the UK presence in Singapore and Malaysia.

However, the mid-late sixties brought an economic crisis and the devaluation of pound sterling. In 1967 and 1968 the government published two further supplements to the review, announcing the strategic withdrawal of British forces deployed East of Suez. This marked a watershed in British foreign policy and the end of a major, enduring world-wide military role.

1976 Labour Party (UK) leadership election

The 1976 Labour Party leadership election occurred when Harold Wilson resigned as Leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister. It is the only occasion the Labour Party has had a leadership election with more than one candidate whilst in government.

1980 Labour Party (UK) deputy leadership election

The 1980 Labour Party deputy leadership election took place on 13 November 1980 when incumbent deputy leader Michael Foot was elected leader of the Labour Party, defeating Denis Healey. Healey was subsequently elected unopposed as deputy leader.

1980 Labour Party (UK) leadership election

The 1980 Labour Party leadership election was held following the resignation of James Callaghan. Callaghan had been Prime Minister from 1976 to 1979 and had stayed on as leader of the Labour Party for eighteen months in order to oversee an orderly transition to his favoured successor, Denis Healey over his own deputy Michael Foot. However, during this period the party had become bogged down in internal arguments about its procedures and future direction.

Initially, the candidates were thought likely to be Denis Healey, Peter Shore and John Silkin, but Michael Foot was persuaded to stand by left-wingers who believed that only he could defeat Healey. In the event, Foot won by a margin of 10 votes in the final ballot of MPs.

1981 Labour Party (UK) Shadow Cabinet election

Elections to the Labour Party's Shadow Cabinet (more formally, its "Parliamentary Committee") took place on 19 November 1981. There were 15 posts, rather than 12 as in previous years. In addition to the 15 members elected, the Leader (Michael Foot), Deputy Leader (Denis Healey), Labour Chief Whip (Michael Cocks), Labour Leader in the House of Lords (Lord Peart), and Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party (Jack Dormand) were automatically members.

Of the 12 incumbent members, 10 were re-elected. Tony Benn, who was the top loser in 1980 automatically took the William Rodgers when the latter left the party to create the Social Democratic Party. He lost again in this election. It is unclear whether Roy Mason lost re-election or did not stand. The results of the election, though incomplete, are below

1981 Labour Party (UK) deputy leadership election

The 1981 Labour Party deputy leadership election took place on 27 September 1981 when Tony Benn unsuccessfully challenged the incumbent deputy leader Denis Healey at the party conference. Healey had been elected unopposed as deputy leader in the previous year.

The election took place at Labour Party conference, with affiliated trade unions holding 40% of the votes, delegates from Constituency Labour Parties holding 30% of the votes, and the Parliamentary Labour Party holding the final 30% of the votes.

1983 Labour Party (UK) Shadow Cabinet election

Elections to the Labour Party's Shadow Cabinet (more formally, its "Parliamentary Committee") were announced on 28 October 1983. In addition to the 15 members elected, the Leader (Neil Kinnock), Deputy Leader (Roy Hattersley), Labour Chief Whip (Michael Cocks), Labour Leader in the House of Lords (Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos), and Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party (Jack Dormand) were automatically members.

Denis Healey, who had previously been automatically a shadow cabinet member as Deputy Leader, topped the poll. Robin Cook, Michael Meacher and Giles Radice joined the cabinet; Jones and Meacher had not stood in 1982.

1983 Labour Party (UK) deputy leadership election

A deputy leadership election for the Labour Party in the United Kingdom took place on 2 October 1983 to replace incumbent Deputy Leader Denis Healey. Healey had served in the position since 1980, becoming deputy leader at the same time that Michael Foot became party leader. Foot and Healey had both announced their resignations after the general election on 9 June 1983, in which a disastrous performance left the Labour Party with just 209 seats in parliament.

The election was conducted using the Labour party's electoral college. It was won by Roy Hattersley, who won more than two-thirds of the votes. On the same day, Neil Kinnock won the leadership election. A young Peter Mandelson was employed in Hattersley's campaign team for the deputy leadership contest.

The election took place at Labour Party conference, with affiliated trade unions holding 40% of the votes, delegates from Constituency Labour Parties holding 30% of the votes, and the Parliamentary Labour Party holding the final 30% of the votes.

1987 Labour Party (UK) Shadow Cabinet election

The annual election to the Labour Party's Shadow Cabinet (more formally, its "Parliamentary Committee") was conducted in 1987. In addition to the 16 members elected, the Leader (Neil Kinnock), Deputy Leader (Roy Hattersley), Labour Chief Whip (Derek Foster), Labour Leader in the House of Lords (Cledwyn Hughes), and Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party (Stanley Orme) were automatically members.

Following the 1987 general election, there were significant changes to the cabinet. Barry Jones, Peter Shore, Peter Archer and Giles Radice lost their seats, and other familiar faces such as Denis Healey did not stand. Michael Meacher, Robert Hughest, Robin Cook, Frank Dobson, Gordon Brown, Jo Richardson and Jack Straw gained seats.

Deputy Leader of the Labour Party (UK)

The Deputy Leader of the Labour Party is a senior politician in the British Labour Party. The post is currently held by Tom Watson, who was elected as deputy on 12 September 2015.

James Milner, 1st Baron Milner of Leeds

Major James Milner, 1st Baron Milner of Leeds, MC, PC (12 August 1889 – 16 July 1967) was a British Labour Party politician.

Milner was educated at the University of Leeds and became a solicitor. He was a major in World War I and was wounded, awarded the Military Cross and bar for his service. He was a Leeds City Councillor and Deputy Lord Mayor of Leeds in 1928, and was also Chairman of Leeds Labour Party and President of Leeds Law Society. He later became deputy-lieutenant of the West Riding of Yorkshire.

He was elected as the Labour Member of Parliament (MP) for Leeds South East at a by-election in August 1929, and served until 1951. He became Chairman of Ways and Means and Deputy Speaker and led the British Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. He was made a Privy Counsellor in 1945.

In 1951, the Speaker of the House of Commons, Douglas Clifton Brown, had stepped down. As Chairman of Ways and Means, Milner wanted to be Labour's first-ever Speaker. However, the Conservatives, now the majority party, nominated William Morrison. The vote went along party lines – the first time the post had been contested in the 20th century – and Milner lost.

As some compensation, he was elevated to the House of Lords as Baron Milner of Leeds, of Roundhay in the City of Leeds on 20 December 1951. Denis Healey replaced him in the subsequent by-election.

Milner's son, Michael, born in 1923, succeeded him as Baron Milner of Leeds and topped the poll of hereditary Labour peers to stay in the House of Lords in 1999.

Law of holes

The first law of holes, or the law of holes, is an adage which states that "if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging". Digging a hole makes it deeper and therefore harder to get back out, which is used as a metaphor that when in an untenable position, it is best to stop carrying on and exacerbating the situation.

Leeds East (UK Parliament constituency)

Leeds East is a constituency represented in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament since 2015 by Richard Burgon of the Labour Party.The most notable of past MPs was Denis Healey who represented the constituency from 1955 to 1992. Healey was a very senior Labour politician, and was Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1974 to 1979.

Peter Shore

Peter David Shore, Baron Shore of Stepney, PC (20 May 1924 – 24 September 2001) was a British Labour politician and former Cabinet Minister, noted in part for his opposition to the United Kingdom's entry into the European Economic Community. His idiosyncratic left-wing nationalism led to comparison with the French politician Jean-Pierre Chevènement. He was described in an obituary by the Conservative journalist Patrick Cosgrave as "Between Harold Wilson and Tony Blair, the only possible Labour Party leader of whom a Conservative leader had cause to walk in fear" and, along with Enoch Powell, "the most captivating rhetorician of the age".

Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

In British politics, the Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs is a position within the opposition's shadow cabinet that deals mainly with issues surrounding the Foreign Office. If elected, the person serving as Shadow Foreign Secretary may be designated to serve as the new Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.

Social Contract (Britain)

The Social Contract was a policy by the Labour government of Harold Wilson in 1970s Britain.

In return for the repeal of 1971 Industrial Relations Act, food subsidies and a freeze on rent increase, the Trade Union Congress would be able to persuade its members to cooperate in a programme of voluntary wage restraint.

The Social Contract aimed to avoid the difficulty of former incomes policies, allowing the employers, who in nationalised industries were the state, to treat individual groups separately in wage negotiations. There would be 12-month interval between wage settlements to prevent repeated wage demands and allow the state some level of predictability in future wage expenses, and negotiated increases in wages should be confined either to compensating for inflation since the last settlement or for anticipated future price increases before the next settlement.

It was to be the foundation on which the Chancellor Denis Healey could introduce a stronger budget in order to control the high inflation and growing government spending of the era, which Edward Heath's previous government had failed to do.

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