Former UK Treasury secretary Denis Healey dies at 98

AP News
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Posted: Oct 03, 2015 3:00 PM
Former UK Treasury secretary Denis Healey dies at 98

LONDON (AP) — Decorated World War II military hero and former British Treasury chief Denis Healey has died after a long career in British politics. 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.

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 the opera.

He never became party leader, narrowly losing a hotly contested leadership race to left-winger Michael Foot in 1980. That fateful defeat cost 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," the prime minister 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."

He called Healey "a hugely entertaining man" and an excellent author.

Healey, an Oxford University graduate, wrote numerous books about politics, national security, Britain's place in the world, and also published a book of his photographs.

Labour's leader, Jeremy Corbyn, praised Healey as a "Labour giant whose record of service to party and country stands as his testament."

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 Blair's support for the Iraq war.

Healey also served as defense secretary in the 1960s.

His wife Edna, a writer and filmmaker, died in 2010. The couple had a son and two daughters.

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This story has been amended to show the correct spelling of Healey's first name is Denis, not Dennis.