Labour Party stalwart, WWII hero
Denis Healey, a decorated World War II military hero and former British Treasury chief, died Oct. 3 at his home in Sussex, England. He was 98.
His family said Healey, a Labour Party stalwart and member of the House of Lords, died Saturday morning at his home in Sussex after a brief illness.
Mr. Healey was a towering figure on Britain’s political scene for several decades, known for his familiar bushy eyebrows, his forthright demeanor and his wide-ranging interests, which included photography and opera.
He never became party leader, narrowly losing a hotly contested leadership race to left-winger Michael Foot in 1980. That fateful defeat cost Mr. Healey the chance to run for prime minister, even though he was made deputy party leader.
His most challenging moment in government came in 1976 when, as Treasury chief, he had to go to the International Monetary Fund for a desperately needed loan to keep Britain’s battered finances afloat.
That action, which required a series of difficult cuts in public spending, cost him left-wing support within the party, a development that later doomed his leadership bid.
His death Saturday brought tributes from across the political spectrum, led by British Prime Minister David Cameron from the rival Conservative Party.
Cameron praised Healey’s long career in public service and his bravery during World War II, when Healey served as a major in the Royal Engineers in North Africa and Italy.
“We’ve lost a huge figure of post-war politics,” Cameron said. “A hero in World War II as beach master at Anzio and a brave politician, Denis Healey told his party hard truths about Britain having to live within her means.”
Denis Winston Healey was born Aug. 30, 1917, in Mottingham, England, and grew up in Yorkshire. His father was an engineer.
An Oxford graduate, Mr. Healey wrote numerous books about politics, national security and Britain’s place in the world, and he also published a book of his photographs.
Mr. Healey initially supported Tony Blair, whose New Labour movement brought the party back to power after a long drought, but he later broke with Blair because of disagreement over the Iraq war, which Blair supported.
Mr. Healey also served as minister of defense in the 1960s.
His wife, Edna, a writer and filmmaker, died in 2010. Survivors include three children.
Britain’s Labour Party deputy leader Denis Healey smiles during a news conference in front of the Kremlin inMoscow in 1987.