Of course, the former Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer and Secretary of State for Defence is getting on a bit. He will be 90 on Thursday, but it would be a great mistake to think he is impressed by this fact. "I don't give a bugger, dear," he booms. "Nowadays, if they are healthy, people expect to live to 100."... Healey is energised by the arrival of Gordon Brown. Blair's famed skills as a communicator cut no ice with him. "He has enormous personal charm but I wouldn't call him a communicator. He's a bullshitter, and very good at it. Almost everything he did after 2002 has been a disaster. He has left Brown all the problems to sort out."... It used to be said of Denis Healey that he was "the best prime minister we never had". In fact, he was much happier being Chancellor and Defence Secretary than he would have been at the top. "I always felt that if you were prime minister it was being something, rather than doing something." His wife Edna once told me that she simply didn't believe that in his heart of hearts he wanted it. But now he thinks that lack of ambition was a weakness. "I never fought hard enough. I think I could have made it if I'd tried." All his efforts were channelled into becoming deputy leader in 1981, in
order to save the Labour Party from Tony Benn - a campaign that began Labour's fight back to power. "I think my main political achievement, which was unforeseen," he says, "was to keep the Labour Party together when the split took place. Tony Blair has always felt that if it hadn't been for me, the Labour Party would not have been there for him to inherit."
I was a teenager in the 1970s when Denis Healey was Chancellor and I regarded him as the devil incarnate. He presided over a terrible period in Britain's economic history and his about turn at Heathrow Airport in 1976 when Britain stood on the verge of bankruptcy is something I shall never forget, even though I was only 14 at the time. Britain begging to the IMF is something which seems a very long time ago, but it's actually only 31 years.