Monday, 20 December 2010

Anthony Howard

The death of Anthony Howard robs us of a distinguished political journalist and commentator. He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of politicians which he was able to deploy in the last stage of his full-time career as obituaries editor of The Times. He was a polite but incisive television and radio interviewer. He wrote three biographies: I particularly liked that about Richard Crossman which was a model of its kind.

I never knew him, but one day I passed him on the path outside my office. He was on his way to Warwick University's Modern Record Centre which houses the Crossman collection. He researched his subjects seriously.

I learnt a few things from his obituary which I did not know before. I did not know that his father was a vicar in places like Highgate and Epsom, but I should have done. I did not know that his career started on Reynolds News a long disappeared worthy Sunday organ of the Cooperative Movement. I remember that my uncle's newsagents carried a few copies which no one every seemed to buy, even when it was re-launched as the Sunday Citizen. Howard moved on to better things, but never to the editorship of a major newspaper which many felt he deserved.

Howard remained an Anglican, but one sceptical of the Church: perhaps he was an Erastian. They, too, are a dying breed. Howard was one of a generation of knowledgeable, well-read, sophisticated political journalists who weren't able to construct their stories off the internet. We really shan't see his like again.

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