Denis Healey: Wikis


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The Right Honourable
 The Lord Healey

In office
5 March 1974 – 4 May 1979
Prime Minister Harold Wilson
James Callaghan
Preceded by Anthony Barber
Succeeded by Geoffrey Howe

In office
16 October 1964 – 19 June 1970
Prime Minister Harold Wilson
Preceded by Peter Thorneycroft
Succeeded by Peter Carington

In office
4 November 1980 – 2 October 1983
Leader Michael Foot
Preceded by Michael Foot
Succeeded by Roy Hattersley

Member of Parliament
for Leeds South East
In office
14 February 1952 – 26 May 1955
Preceded by James Milner
Succeeded by Alice Bacon

Member of Parliament
for Leeds East
In office
26 May 1955 – 9 April 1992
Preceded by Constituency created
Succeeded by George Mudie

Born 30 August 1917 (1917-08-30) (age 92)
Bramley, Leeds, UK
Nationality British
Political party Labour

Denis Winston Healey, Baron Healey CH, MBE, PC (born 30 August 1917) is a British Labour politician, who served as Secretary of State for Defence from 1964 to 1970 and Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1974 to 1979.


Early life

Healey was born in Bramley, Leeds, West Riding of Yorkshire, England, but moved with his family to the nearby town of Keighley when he was five. Healey was given his middle name in honour of Winston Churchill.[1] Healey was one of three siblings. Healey's father was an engineer who had worked his way up from humble origins studying at night school. His paternal grandfather was a tailor from Enniskillen in Ireland.

Healey was educated at Bradford Grammar School. In 1936 he won an exhibition to Balliol College, Oxford, to read Greats where he was involved in Labour politics, although unlike many future politicians he was not active in the Oxford Union Society. Whilst at Oxford, Healey joined the Communist Party in 1937 but left it in 1939, in protest over the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.

At Oxford, Healey met future Conservative Prime Minister Ted Heath, whom he succeeded as President of Balliol College Junior Common Room, and who was to be both a life-long friend and political rival. Healey achieved a double first for his degree, awarded in 1940.


World War II

After Healey had taken his degree, he served in World War II with the Royal Engineers, in the North African Campaign, Allied invasion of Sicily and the Italian campaign, and was the Military Landing Officer for the British assault brigade at Anzio. Leaving the service with the rank of Major after the war – he declined an offer to remain in the army as a Lieutenant-Colonel – Healey joined the Labour Party. Still in uniform, Major Healey gave a barnstorming and strongly left-wing speech to the Labour Party conference in 1945, 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 1651 votes.[2] Following this, he was appointed to the post of secretary of the International Department of the Labour Party, becoming a foreign policy adviser to Labour Party leaders and establishing contacts with socialists across Europe.

From 1948 to 1960 he was a councillor of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, and of the International Institute for Strategic Studies from 1958 till 1961. He was a member of the Fabian Society executive from 1954 till 1961.

Member of Parliament and in government

Healey was elected to the House of Commons as MP for Leeds South East at a by-election in February 1952 with a majority of 7,000 votes, after the incumbent MP Major James Milner left the Commons to accept a peerage.

Healey supported the moderate side in the Labour Party during the series of 1950s' splits. Though a supporter and friend of Hugh Gaitskell, when Gaitskell died in 1963, Healey was horrified at the idea of Gaitskell's volatile deputy, George Brown, leading the Labour Party, saying "He was like immortal Jemima, when he was good he was very good but when he was bad he was horrid". As a result Healey voted for James Callaghan in the first ballot and Harold Wilson in the second. Healey thought Wilson would be able to 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 later appointed Shadow Defence Secretary after the creation of the position in 1964.

When Labour won the 1964 election Healey served throughout the government as Secretary of State for Defence. In this capacity he had to cut back on defence expenditure, including cancelling the TSR-2 aircraft and withdrawing from "East of Suez" commitments. He remained in that post for the party's near six-years of Government and as Shadow Defence Secretary after Labour's unexpected defeat in June 1970.

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".[3] In a speech in Lincoln on 18 February 1974, reported in The Times the following day, Healey went further, promising that he would "squeeze property speculators until the pips squeak" and said that Lord Carrington, the then 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.[4] He was later widely – but incorrectly - reported as saying that under a Labour Government he would "tax the rich until the pips squeak", which Healey accurately but disingenuously denied. When he was accused by colleagues from his own party, including Eric Heffer, left-wing MP for Liverpool Walton, of putting the Labour party's chances of winning the next election in jeopardy with his tax proposals, Healey said that 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", he declared, "the party must face the realities of it".[5]

Healey became Chancellor of the Exchequer in March 1974 after the Labour Party's narrow election victory. As Chancellor, Healey's tenure is sometimes divided into two parts which are sometimes called Healey Mark I and Healey Mark II. (See The Jekyll and Hyde Years: Politics and Economic Policy since 1964 by Michael Stewart.) The divide between the two is marked by Healey's decision, taken in conjunction with then-Prime Minister James Callaghan to seek an International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan and submit the British economy to the associated IMF supervision. 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 a 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 than beforehand.

Shadow Cabinet and retirement

Healey's bushy eyebrows and soft-spoken wit earned him a favourable reputation with the public. When the media were not present, his humour was equally caustic but more risqué: "These fallacies (pronounced like 'phalluses') are rising up everywhere", he once retorted at a meeting of Leeds University Labour Society. The impressionist Mike Yarwood coined for him the catchphrase "Silly Billy", which Healey had never actually said until that point, but he adopted it and used it frequently. However Healey's directness of speech made enemies. He attacked left-wing opponents of his policies as being "out of their tiny Chinese minds" early in 1976,[6] meaning to imply that they were Maoist, but offending the Chinese community. The controversy over this remark led to a poor performance when he fought for the Labour leadership on Harold Wilson's resignation. He obtained 30 votes in the first ballot on 25 March, and then 38 in the second on 30 March. He was eliminated from the election and supported James Callaghan in the final ballot on 5 April.

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, he likened being attacked by the mild-mannered Sir Geoffrey Howe in the House of Commons to being "savaged by a dead sheep".[7] Nevertheless, when Healey was featured on This Is Your Life in 1989, Howe appeared and paid warm tribute to Healey. The two have been friends for many years.

Healey was considered favourite to win the Labour Party leadership election in November 1980, which was decided by Labour MPs only. However he ran a complacent campaign in which he took his support from the right wing of the party for granted. In one notable incident, Healey was reputed to have told members of the right-wing Manifesto Group that they must vote for him as they had "nowhere else to go." Mike Thomas, the MP for Newcastle East and a defector to the Social Democratic Party (SDP), later revealed that he had been tempted to send Healey a telegram stating that he had found "somewhere else to go". Indeed, four Labour MPs who later defected to the SDP claimed they voted against Healey in order to land the Labour Party with an unelectable left-wing leader and so help their new party.[8]

He was elected deputy leader to Michael Foot when Foot became leader, but the next year was challenged for the job by Tony Benn under the new election system, which included individual members and trade unions. The contest was seen by many as a battle for the soul of the Labour Party and was vigorously debated over the summer of 1981 ending with Healey winning by 50.4% to Benn's 49.6% on 27 September 1981. Healey's narrow majority can be attributed to the action of the Transport and General Workers' Union (TGWU) delegation to the Labour party conference. Ignoring the results of a consultation with the union's members, which had shown two to one majority support for Healey, it cast the union's block vote (the largest in the union section) for Tony Benn. Despite this Healey attracted enough support from other key unions, constituency parties and Labour MPs to win the contest.

Healey served as Shadow Foreign Secretary during most of the 1980s, a job he had coveted. His views on nuclear weapons were at variance with the official unilateral nuclear disarmament policy of the party. After the 1987 general election, he retired from the Shadow Cabinet, and in 1992 he 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. Healey is regarded by some – especially in the Labour Party – as "the best Prime Minister we never had".[9] Denis Healey is a founder member of the secretive Bilderberg Group.[10]

Although he supported Tony Blair to be leader of the Labour Party within hours of John Smith's death, he later became critical of Blair. During 2004 and 2005, he several times called on Blair to stand down as Prime Minister in favour of Gordon Brown. In July 2006 he argued that "Nuclear weapons are infinitely less important in our foreign policy than they were in the days of the Cold War" and that "I don't think we need nuclear weapons any longer".[11]

Personal life

Healey married Edna May Edmunds on December 21, 1945. Their marriage has lasted for over 60 years, and they live in Alfriston, East Sussex.[12].

When Edna fell ill in the mid 1980s, she received private health care - something apparently at odds with Healey's pro-NHS beliefs. Challenged about the decision by Anne Diamond on TV-am, Healey became visibly upset and ended the interview.[13]

The couple have three children, one of whom is the broadcaster, writer and record producer Tim Healey[14][15].

He was a keen photographer for many years[16] and enjoyed music and painting. He would sometimes play popular piano tunes at public events.[17]

In popular culture

Film, television and theatre

In 1986 Healey appeared in Series One of Saturday Live reciting a satirical poem called 'Ode to Westminster'. He was portrayed by David Fleeshman in the 2002 BBC production of Ian Curteis's controversial The Falklands Play

Graphic novels

The 1986 comic Watchmen, set in an alternative present, mentioned a "British Prime Minister Healey".


The Remastered edition of the Yes album Tormato, features the added track "Money"; which contains a satirical voice-over of Healey by Rick Wakeman in the background throughout the course of the song.


His publications have included; 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. ^ Kaufman, Gerald (13 March 2000). "Debates for 13 Mar 2000 (pt 20)". Hansard (London: House of Commons). Retrieved 31 January 2009.  
  2. ^ Craig, F. W. S. (1983) [1969]. British parliamentary election results 1918-1949 (3rd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. ISBN 0-900178-06-X.  
  3. ^ The Times, Tuesday, 2 October 1973; p. 1; Issue 58902; col A
  4. ^ The Times, Tuesday, 19 February 1974; pg. 4; Issue 59018; col D
  5. ^ The Times, Thursday, 18 October 1973; p. 2; Issue 58916; col C
  6. ^ The Daily Telegraph, 24 February 1976
  7. ^ Hansard, 14 June 1978, Col. 1027
  8. ^ Crewe, Ivor and King, Anthony, SDP: The Birth, Life and Death of the Social Democratic Party (Oxford University Press, 1995), pp.74-75.
  9. ^ Sale, Jonathan (4 May 2006), "Passed/failed: An education in the life of Denis Healey, Labour peer"], The Independent,, retrieved 2009-04-28  
  10. ^ Ronson, Jon (10 March 2001). "Who pulls the strings? (part 3)". The Guardian.,4273,4149485,00.html. Retrieved 2009-07-04.  
  11. ^ "UK needs no nuclear arms - Healey". BBC News. 2006-07-07. Retrieved 2007-01-13.  
  12. ^ Denis Healey at 90
  13. ^ BBC Politics 97
  14. ^ Water way to splash out for charity, Oxford Mail, 17 May 1999.
  15. ^ Come on Lads: Canteen songs of World War Two, Beautiful Jo Records website (Retrieved 13 September 2008).
  16. ^ - Denis Healey & Photography
  17. ^ "Denis Healey playing the piano at Huddersfield Town Hall", Science and Society (National Museum of Science and Industry), May 1987,, retrieved 2009-04-28  

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
Succeeded by
George Mudie
Political offices
Preceded by
Aneurin Bevan
Shadow Foreign Secretary
Succeeded by
Harold Wilson
Preceded by
Peter Thorneycroft
Secretary of State for Defence
Succeeded by
Lord Carrington
Preceded by
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Shadow Foreign Secretary
Succeeded by
James Callaghan
Preceded by
Anthony Barber
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
Sir Geoffrey Howe
Preceded by
Peter Shore
Shadow Foreign Secretary
Succeeded by
Gerald Kaufman
Party political offices
Preceded by
Michael Foot
Deputy Leader of the British Labour Party
Succeeded by
Roy Hattersley


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Denis Winston Healey, Baron Healey, PC (born 1917-08-30), is a British Labour politician and former Defence Secretary and Chancellor of the Exechequer.



  • I think the Services can be rightly very upset at the continuous series of defence reviews which the Government has been forced by economic circumstances—and maybe economic mistakes too—to carry out...
  • On BBC Television's Panorama programme (22 January, 1968).
  • Once we cut defence expenditure to the extent where our security is imperilled, we have no houses, we have no hospitals, we have no schools. We have a heap of cinders.
  • Speech in the House of Commons (Hansard, 5 March, 1969, Col. 551).
  • We are all agreed on a massive extension of public ownership.
  • Speech in York (2 June, 1973).
  • We shall increase income tax on the better off so that we can help the hundreds of thousands of families now tangled helplessly in the poverty trap by raising the tax threshold and introducing reduced rates of tax for those at the bottom of the ladder. I warn you, there are going to be howls of anguish from the rich. But before you cheer too loudly let me warn you that a lot of you will pay extra taxes too.
  • Speech to the Labour Party Conference at Blackpool (1 October, 1973).
  • It has never been my nature, I regret to admit to the House, to turn the other cheek.
  • Speech in the House of Commons (Hansard, 18 December, 1974, Col. 1620).
  • No country would suffer more than Britain from an international trade war, since we depend more on world trade than any of our competitors. That is why we cannot accept the proposal made in some quarters that we should seek to solve our problems through imposing import controls for a long period over a whole range of manufactured consumer goods.
  • Speech in the House of Commons (Hansard, 17 December, 1975, Col. 1409).
  • They must be out of their tiny Chinese minds.
  • Attacking left-wing critics of spending cuts, implying they were Maoist (The Daily Telegraph, 24 February, 1976).
  • By the end of next year, we really shall be on our way to that so-called economic miracle we need.
  • In an Ministerial broadcast on the Budget (6 April, 1976).
  • If we can keep our heads—and our nerve—the long-awaited economic miracle is in our grasp. Britain can achieve in the Seventies what Germany and France achieved in the Fifties and Sixties.
  • The Sunday Telegraph (4 July, 1976).
  • The alternative to getting help from the IMF would be economic policies so savage I think they would produce riots in the streets, an immediate fall in living standards and unemployment of three million.
  • On ITN's News at Ten (29 September, 1976).
  • I am going to negotiate with the IMF on the basis of our existing policies, not changes in policies, and I need your support to do it. (Applause) But when I say "existing policies", I mean things we do not like as well as things we do like. It means sticking to the very painful cuts in public expenditure (shouts from the floor) on which the Government has already decided. It means sticking to a pay policy which enables us, as the TUC resolved a week or two ago, to continue the attack on inflation. (Shout of, "Resign".)
  • Labour Party Annual Conference Report 1976, p. 319
  • Speech at the Labour Party Conference, 30 September 1976. Healey had been forced to abandon plans to attend an international finance ministers' conference in order to speak to the conference because of a run on the pound.
  • No Government can produce an economic miracle. An economic miracle depends on people on the shop floor, in the board room, in the sales office, working a bit harder and more efficiently than they have worked in the past.
  • On BBC TV (15 December, 1976).
  • I start with the measures which the Government announced last Thursday, and which are the immediate occasion of today's debate, and to which the right hon. Gentleman finally came round - a trifle nervously, I thought - after ploughing through that tedious and tendentious farrago of moth-eaten cuttings presented to him by the Conservative Research Department. I must say that part of his speech was rather like being savaged by a dead sheep.
  • NATO's nuclear strategy is an essential part of that balance [between East and West]. To threaten to upset it by refusing to let America base any of her nuclear weapons in Britain would make war more likely, not less likely.
  • The Guardian (14 August, 1981).
  • I would fight to change the policy before the General Election. If I failed then I wouldn't accept office in a Labour Government.
  • On unilateral nuclear disarmament. (The Guardian, 15 September, 1981).
  • It is totally unproven that the increase in the money supply has a short term or medium term connection with inflation and prices.
  • Speech in the House of Commons (Hansard, 11 November, 1981, Col. 552).
  • Faced with the difficulties of unilateral reflation some socialists are tempted to seek salvation through trade restrictions or competitive devaluation. But such beggar-my-neighbour policies, if pursued on the scale required...are more likely to lead to a trade and currency war than to insulate their sponsors from the recession in the outside world.
  • Speech in Paris (12 November, 1982).
  • We will put Polaris into the arms talks with the Soviet Union and hope to phase it out in multilateral negotiations...if the Russians … fail to cut their nuclear forces accordingly it would be a new situation that we could consider at that time.
  • The Times (25 May, 1983).
  • [Margaret Thatcher is] wrapping herself in a Union Jack and exploiting the services of our soldiers, sailors and airmen and hoping to get away with it. The Prime Minister who glories in at this very moment lending the military dictatorship in Buenos Aires millions of pounds to buy weapons, including weapons made in Britain, to kill British servicemen with, and that is an act of stupefying hypocrisy.
  • Healey was forced to retract this statement and claimed he had meant to say "conflict" rather than "slaughter". (The Guardian, 2 June, 1983).
  • What almost halved the support for the Labour Party was the feeling that it has lost its traditional common sense and its humanity to a new breed of sectarian extremism.
  • On the 1983 general election (The News of the World, 19 June, 1983).
  • So long as the Soviet Union has nuclear weapons there have to be nuclear weapons somewhere in NATO to deter them from using them.
  • The Tribune (28 March, 1986).
  • The reason we were defeated in so far as defence played a role is that people believe we were in favour of unilaterally disarming ourselves. It wasn't the confusion. It was the unilateralism that was the damaging thing.
  • Explaining Labour's defeat in the 1983 election in an interview in Marxism Today (April, 1986).
  • He has never been a Minister, lacks experience, and people know it. In troubled times, the electorate looks for a strong leader and Mrs Thatcher is seen as one.
  • The US, whether we like it or not, has nuclear weapons. The US is a member of NATO. Possession by the US of nuclear weapons is obviously a deterrent.
  • The London Standard (30 September, 1986).
  • No. Absolutely not. I think that the Russians are praying for a Labour victory...praying is perhaps an unfortunate choice of words. I think that they would much prefer a Labour government and that the idea that they would prefer a Tory government, I think is utter bunkum, and they [the Soviets] authorized me to say so.
    • Answering a suggestion that the Soviets would prefer a Conservative government led by Margaret Thatcher than a Labour government headed by Neil Kinnock at a press conference in Moscow after a meeting with Anatoly Dobrynin (11 May, 1987).
    • E. B. Geelhoed, Margaret Thatcher: In Victory and Downfall, 1987 and 1990 (Greenwood, 1992), pp. 120-1.


  • Silly billy!
  • A catchphrase used by impressionist Mike Yarwood when 'doing' Healey, and subsequently adopted by Healey himelf.

Quotes about Healey

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

Simple English

Denis Winston Healey, Baron Healey CH, MBE, PC (born 30 August 1917) is an British Labour politician. He was Secretary of State for Defence from 1964 to 1970 and Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1974 to 1979.

Healey was born in Mottingham, London, but moved with his family to Keighley in the West Riding of Yorkshire when he was five years old.[1] He was given the middle name "Winston" after Winston Churchill, who was an important politician at the time Denis was born.[2] Healey was one of three children. Their father was an engineer who had worked his way up by taking extra lessons at night school.

Healey went to Bradford Grammar School, and in 1936 he won a typo of scholarship known as an "exhibition", which gave him enough money to take a degree at Balliol College, Oxford. At Oxford University he got involved in politics, and he joined the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1937. In 1939, not liking the party's policies, he changed his mind. From that time on, he supported the UK Labour Party, even though one of his best friends at university, Edward Heath, supported the UK Conservative Party.

=World War II and afterwards

= After getting his degree, Dennis Healey joined the Royal Engineers, and served in the British forces in several countries during World War II. He took an important part in the Battle of Anzio, towards the end of the war. After the war, he joined the Labour Party, and made an important speech to the Labour Party conference in 1945, shortly before the United Kingdom general election, 1945.

In February 1952, Healey became the Member of Parliament for Leeds South East. He supported Hugh Gaitskell, the leader of the Labour Party. When Gaitskell died in 1963, Healey became a supporter of Harold Wilson. When Labour won the 1964 election Healey was given the job of Secretary of State for Defence. Labour lost power in 1970, but Healey was given the job of Shadow Chancellor in April 1972.

When Labour won a general election in March 1974 and came back into power, Healey became Chancellor of the Exchequer in March 1974. When Harold Wilson resigned as Prime Minister in 1976, Healey was one of those who hoped to take over, but he was not chosen. He continued in the job of Chancellor of the Exchequer when James Callaghan took over as Prime Minister.


  1. Mark Hookham (03-12-2008). "Denis Healey: 'The best Prime Minister we never had'". Yorkshire Evening Post. Retrieved 26 April 2010. 
  2. Kaufman, Gerald (13 March 2000). "Debates for 13 Mar 2000 (pt 20)". Hansard (London: House of Commons). Retrieved 31 January 2009. 


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