The late Denis Healey’s first appearance in the New Statesman came in 1951, with a letter on Soviet ambitions in which he observed, “This argument has certainly stirred up some of the mud which lay beneath the cool limpidity of your correspondents’ first letters.” It was a typically elegant turn of phrase from a politician who excelled at bons mots. His first article for the NS followed eight years later, again on the Soviet threat, in which he warned that the “megaton missile and its terrifying progeny” made ending the cold war arms race an urgent priority.
Mr Healey had the authority to talk about the horrors of conflict: he was the beach master at Anzio in the Second World War and made his speech to the Labour party conference in 1945 dressed in military uniform. In later life, he became sceptical of the effectiveness of a nuclear deterrent, arguing in 2006: “The only case is really a political one. I think the military case now for nuclear weapons has gone.”
His death on 3 October, at the age of 98, reminds us of the heterodox traditions that make up the Labour Party.