With Labour in total disarray after the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader, the death of Denis Healey at the age of ninety-eight – one of the most towering figures of the post-war Labour Party – reminds us all of the decline of politics in general.
He was a true Labour giant who was frequently described as the best prime minister the party never had. He was endowed with a variety of talents, a pianist who enjoyed opera, history, painting and photography. His knowledge in most things was remarkable. He defied Tony Benn and ‘the silly billies’ he fought against have now hijacked his party.
Leading politicians of all parties said his death marked the end of an era.
I was privileged to have been given the chance to interview him in 1994. I found him a man of many parts whose persona was mesmerising to say the least. To listen to him was both a joy and an education.
Unlike some politicians I interviewed, he was perhaps the most charismatic with a devastating sense of humour. He took every question I posed to him as a challenge and felt that our encounter was like a game of chess where instead his knowledge was being tested and he had to be triumphant, which he was.
Here is my interview with him in full, for the benefit of those who missed it when it was first published.