Denis Healey, the former Labour MP, Defence Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer has died aged 98 after a short illness.
Born in Mottingham, Kent, in August 1917, a Communist in his youth, Healey joined the Labour Party in 1945 after fighting in the Second World War with the Royal Engineers in the North African Campaign, the Allied invasion of Sicily and the Italian Campaign.
Lord Healey, a Labour Member of Parliament for 40 years from 1952, served as Secretary of State for Defence from 1964 to 1970 and Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1974 to 1979. On retiring from the House of Commons in 1992 he joined the House of Lords.
The BBC reports that a defining moment in his political career was in 1976 when he applied for an emergency loan from the the International Monetary Fund in an effort to save the pound from collapse. As Chancellor of the Exchequer Healey had to find the £2.5 billion cuts in government spending demanded in return for the $3.9 billion loan.
Like other former Chancellors, Lords Lawson and Lamont, Healey came to conclude in later life that leaving the European Union (EU) would not be bad for Britain. Having been Chancellor during the last Europe referendum in 1975, two years ago he told Channel 4’s Michael Crick:
“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.
“The trouble about Europe is what I call the Olive Line, the line below which people grow olives. North of the Olive Line people pay their taxes and spend public money very cautiously. South of it they fail to pay their taxes at all, but spend a lot of public money.”
The history of the 1980s could have been very different had he succeeded in his campaign for the Labour Party leadership in 1980. He lost to Michael Foot by 10 votes.