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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars But Why Labour, Denis?
In his autobiography Denis Healey does not pause to ponder whether, as in the opinion of so many, he is the greatest prime minister Britain never had. But he holds in low regard almost all of those who held the office during his own time in Parliament. Of the leaders whom Healey himself served, the woolly, short-termist Wilson is held in contempt, although Callaghan is...
Published on 22 Jan 2003 by Peter Loyden

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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This book changed my opinion of Denis Healey
In his long career as a politician Denis Healey managed to project an attractive persona and appeared to hold reasonably moderate views. I have just read the original Hardback version. I learned a lot and I did not like what I learnt.

In the book Denis is adamant that he did not say "I will squeeze the rich until the pips squeak." but he blatantly omits to...
Published on 24 April 2010 by Paul


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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars But Why Labour, Denis?, 22 Jan 2003
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This review is from: The Time of My Life (Paperback)
In his autobiography Denis Healey does not pause to ponder whether, as in the opinion of so many, he is the greatest prime minister Britain never had. But he holds in low regard almost all of those who held the office during his own time in Parliament. Of the leaders whom Healey himself served, the woolly, short-termist Wilson is held in contempt, although Callaghan is admired both for his management of the cabinet and for his integrity: "once prime minister, he had no ambition except to serve his country well".
And evidently one of Callaghan's great services to his country was to retain Healey as his Chancellor - a role in which Callaghan himself had failed a decade earlier. The chapters dealing with Healey's labours at the Treasury are at the heart of the book. He figures himself as Hercules cleaning the Augean stables, as he restores stability to the UK economy after Tony Barber's calamitous superintendence of it under Heath. Healey arrived the Treasury in 1974 with no grounding in economics, as he admits, and therefore with an open mind - sceptical in economic theory, as in ideology, of all dogma. But he is a layman with a truly giant intellect, and the book is at its most illuminating as he applies his voracious mind to the evils conjured up by Barber's credit boom and by OPEC's trebling of the world oil price in 1973.
A layman in economics, Healey's political training had been in international affairs and defence. The book was written in 1989, unknowingly on the very eve of the revolutions in eastern Europe, and its long treatises on nuclear strategy appear today somewhat dated. But as the book's title suggests, Healey applied his talents within the paradigm of his own age, and by so doing distinguished himself from other clever men of his generation - such as Enoch Powell, Tony Benn, and Michael Foot - whose response to the same challenges was to attach themselves to romantic ideals of one sort or another. Healey is a romantic, but never an eccentric.
Well-known is his devotion to his "hinterland" of art and literature, music, travel, and photography. His passion for culture has informed every passage of his long life, and the book evokes it well. Healey himself wonders whether his failure to capture the premiership was attributable to a trimming of his ambition in the knowledge that there is more to life than politics. That may be. Another factor, which Healey does not discuss, might be the use that he made of the war years, serving with distinction and valour on the beaches of Anzio whilst the future Labour leaders, Gaitskell and Wilson, were learning the ways of Whitehall as temporary civil servants.
Yet another factor, suggested by Edward Pierce in his essay on Healey in The Lost Leaders, is the arrogance which set Healey apart from his fellow Labour MPs, and which encouraged them in 1976 to prefer as Wilson's successor the homely trade unionist Callaghan to the aloof Balliol alumni Healey and Jenkins. Certainly Healey's prose, although not as fluent as Jenkins', is charged with a similar pomposity: the highest accolade that Healey can bestow on one of his fellow men - and he bestows it on many - is that he is "brilliant".
The book makes plain why Healey wished to enter politics - politicized during the 1930s, a witness at first hand of pre-1939 Nazi Germany, he sought to combat totalitarianism and to contribute to peace. Less clear is why he joined the Communist Party as a youth, or, for that matter, why he settled later with Labour. His contemporary Ted Heath had much the same political education but chose differently, and there is nothing from Healey of the kind of indignation at the other abiding image of the Thirties - the Depression - that might have pushed a Yorkshire grammar-school boy into the arms of the Left. On questions of social justice, Healey is silent; nor does he disclose any view on religion. This is a pity. The book's main flaw is that it affords no glimpse of the moral underpinning of Healey's politics. Without that, we have no counterpoint to Jenkins' view of his rival - that he carried only light ideological baggage on the heaviest of gun-carriages.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very attractive man., 16 Sep 2003
This review is from: The Time of My Life (Paperback)
Throughout this autobiography the personality of Denis Healey is luminous. He is a very attractive as a politician as well as a man. There is a decency and genuiness that is difficult to write about, but it is invested in every chapter of this book. Healey is an hard-working school boy, an intelligent scholar, a brave, honest soldier, a generous, ambitious, loyal politician, and a witty and stylish autobiographer. He appears to be the type of man who we would wish to run the country and, unusually for a Labour man, appears to have attained the gentlemanly ideal of easeful excellence - he spoke French, German, Italian, Latin and Ancient Greek. He does not appear to suffer some of the inferiority complexes that his Labour colleagues did. Add to this what he has called his 'hinterlands' which with the reading that he does quote extend far both into the terrain of British and European literature, then we know we are perusing the words of a truly remarkable man.
He did not become Prime Minister: he is not perturbed. He only wanted to be leader of the Labour Party to save it from extremists and no-hopers which in light of the proceeding history is warranted. His life is a success from the point of view that he is recognised as the ablest defence secretary in the post-war years; he saved the British economy, and he was a great family man, which is a point often referred to and appears to be most important to him. I can't help but like and admire Denis Healey. However, and there is always a 'but' in any life, his view of the world is remarkably secure and certain. His beliefs are wide and allow him to absorb mostly everything, and he never appears to be out of his depth no matter who he is with. He has never, it seems, known despair or a great wrestling with himself, or even questioned deeply the whole purpose of politics. His aim, both simple and noble, was to prevent a Third World War. And that is what he spent his political life doing. He was a remarkable man, perhaps he was a great man.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Denis - Menace, Master or Myth?, 16 April 2012
By 
Neutral "Phil" (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Time of My Life (Paperback)
Denis Healey was known as a political bruiser. At the Labour Party Conference in 1945, still dressed in army uniform, he thundered, "The upper classes in every country are selfish, depraved, dissolute and decadant" a comment which led a future Speaker of the House, George Thomas, to comment, "Denis, you have the most wonderful gift of vituperation". He never lost it, even as he moved to the Right of the Party, accusing the Bevanites of "a flight from reality into dogma" and abandoning nationalisation and class policies based on "soaking the rich". Yet he warned the 1973 Labour Conference, "there are going to be howls of anguish from those rich enough to pay over 75% on their last slice of earnings" adding in a later speech that he would, "squeeze property speculators until the pips squeak" It was all good knockabout politics reminiscent of his first electoral campaign when he "spoke with total confidence, based largely on total ignorance." Yet ignorance is no excuse for failure and Healy's bombastic assumption that he would succeed Callaghan as Labour leader was a failure on his part and that of the Labour Party itself.

Healey was a man of unresolved contradictions. A product of the grammar school system he waxes lyrical about the importance of learning Latin and Greek yet joined Crosland, a contemporary at Balliol, in systematically destroying grammar schools in favour of bog-standard comprehensives where neither Latin nor Greek were welcome. Thus Healey, a keen photographer, lover of arts, especially poetry, music and painting, studying ancient civilisations while happily preventing later generations from doing so. Like many intellectuals Healey failed to appreciate the difference between equality as sameness and equality as the opportunity for individual and collective progress. It also led him into hypocrisy, refusing to answer questions about his wife's operation in a private hospital while he espoused the values of the NHS, ending a televised interview rather than admit the conflict involved.

In retrospect Healey accepts the naivity of university politics in the 1930s. "I cannot say that I am proud of all my political activities at Oxford" although he was less committed than many of his generation to Communism as an answer to the inevitability of war. The volte face which saw the signing of Molotov-Ribbentrop treaty and the Soviet invasion of Finland resulted in the formation of a rival Democratic Party led by Jenkins and Crosland. Healey recalls, "I am sorry to say I opposed them," adding "more from inertia and indifference than conviction". Healy's own break with Communism came after the Fall of France. Healy joined the army, an experience he describes as "long periods of boredom....broken by short bursts of excitement." He missed action in Sicily but was beachmaster at Reggio, Italy, vividly describing coming under fire. From his time in the army he learned two vital lessons, the importance of planning and reliance upon others.

With the help of influential friends Healey became Labour's International Secretary immediately after the war. His job was to explain British foreign policy to the Party and the world. The Party was influenced by Communist domination of the union vote while the world, especially the United States, was slow to grasp that Britain could not maintain her pre-war commitments and others would have to secure the West by stepping into the breach against communist expansionism. Healey made many contacts in his five years as International Secretary, most of whom have passed from the pages of history unnoticed thus giving the unintended impression of name-dropping. He is strong on his analysis of various Labour politicians including Bevin, whom he admired, Dalton, who he found sad and shallow and Laski who was widely known as a fantasist. His description of Crossman as "a heavyweight intellect with a lightweight judgement" is accurate. These days the former are rarely seen in politics while the latter appear to have multiplied.

Healey became an MP and spent the 1950s concentrating on defence issues. Thus it was no surprise when he was appointed Defence Secretary by Harold Wilson after the 1964 General Election. His legacy was to liquidate Britain's military role outside Europe and remove troops from East of Suez. He states he "was fortunate in taking office at a time when overdue changes in the planning and organisation of defence were already under way". He also notes that none of his decisions were overturned by the Conservatives when they returned to office. Wilson's duplicity over the question of arms to South Africa and his misjudgements under pressure are revealing, each contributing to Labour's loss of office in 1970. When Labour returned to office in 1974 Healey was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer. His description of the challenges he faced provide some of the most interesting observations on how British government works in practice. There was some opposition from within the civil service but "politically, by far the most difficult part of my ordeal was the continual reduction of public spending". It appears very little has changed.

Healey writes, "Modern capitalism has little in common with the system described by Karl Marx. It is the managers, not the owners, who wield the real power in private industry." He poured scorn on Thatcher's "people's capitalism" preferring the Swedish system which he dubs "market socialism". Healey believes family is important to success in politics, citing the example of James Callaghan who visited his wife in hospital every day after she developed Alzheimer's Disease four years before her death and only survived her by eleven days. Healy's wife, Edna, whose support he valued, died aged 92, in 2010. Although he valued his family life Healey attributes much of his success to the opportunity "to refresh myself with music, poetry and painting.". By way of contrast politics is a matter of trial and error. There's much of both in his autobiography which, whatever the politics of the reader, is an excellent volume easily worth five stars.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling Auto-Biography, 26 Feb 2014
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This review is from: The Time of My Life (Paperback)
I'd recommend this book to anyone with an interest in politics. Healey's understanding and grasp of what was going on around him throughout his lengthy political tenure makes for a memorable read. He left Oxford with a double-first only to find himself joining the army shortly after the outbreak of war in 1939. His war service instilled in him a sense of discipline that would serve him well as he climbed the greasy pole almost to the very top of the Labour Party. Very well written and well worth a look.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Beware The Treasury!, 26 Oct 2013
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This review is from: The Time of My Life (Paperback)
The Treasury comes off very badly in Healey's readable autobiography. Inflation busting, interest-rate lowering, IMF loving Healey takes the reader on a whirlwind journey of 70's politics with plenty of poems and culture thrown in for good measure. It is interesting to read his take on nuclear disarmament, and, as an old soldier it is reassuring to hear that America's dropping of the bomb saved a lot of lives in WW2. Along the way there is some unasked for hilarity as Healey is the only person to miss Britain sliding down the league table of nations. It's very well written with some lovely cuttings of Margaret Thatcher's character - very amusing. Healey grows in stature every year.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Time of my Life by Denis Healey, 7 Jan 2013
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As always excellent service. Condition was as specified - looked like new at a good price. Bought it for my husband who is very pleased with it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A great read, 2 Dec 2012
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This review is from: The Time of My Life (Paperback)
Healey has written the best autobiography that I have ever read. Some reviewers seem
to feel short-changed by not finding the real Healey in these pages, or disliking the man they find. I believe that the author chose the title of the book with care (both meanings). If Dennis meant to chronicle his times, which is obvious really, a better-placed person could hardly be found, in the UK anyway. The author writes clearly and entertainingly despite being ridiculously erudite. This is one of the books great strengths - it would have been easy to produce a dry-as-dust tome given the subject-matter. Whether you like Healey or not this autobiography will inform and delight future generations.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This book changed my opinion of Denis Healey, 24 April 2010
By 
Paul (Hertfordshire UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Time of My Life (Paperback)
In his long career as a politician Denis Healey managed to project an attractive persona and appeared to hold reasonably moderate views. I have just read the original Hardback version. I learned a lot and I did not like what I learnt.

In the book Denis is adamant that he did not say "I will squeeze the rich until the pips squeak." but he blatantly omits to mention that when he was chancellor the top rate of income tax was 83% with a 15% surcharge on income other than wages, making the top rate 98%. This was certainly an attempt to squeeze the rich. The book as stated by another reviewer is notable for its omissions. He does not even mention Labour's program of Nationalization in the 1940s. Why not? He must have had a view. These omissions are so massive, in my view they amount to dishonesty. This was very disappointing because until I read the book, I had considered Healey a cut above the average dishonest politician.

He makes a big thing of having been a Major in the Army in WWII, so he had real army experience that helped him be a much better Secretary of State for Defence. He also made the valid point that too many ministers don't have any management experience. He then became Chancellor of the Exchequer and tells of his enthusiasm to learn the ropes. It is telling that he consulted a number of prominent left wing academic economists in his bid to learn, but incredibly, he did not report discussing the economy with a single industrialist. He did not even mention reading a book on economics.

Healey managed to obtain a first from Oxford in Latin and Greek. In the book he is at such great pains to point out his intellectual superiority that you have to assume he in fact suffers from an intellectual inferiority complex. Every chapter starts with a long quotation from a poem. Strangely, not one of them is relevant to the topic of the chapter. The choice of poems is dismal. I struggled hard to read each one. It could put you off poetry. The practice of opening a chapter with a quotation usually works really well, but not with Healey's choice of quotations.

He goes on the 'refute' the theories of Milton Friedman by merely insulting him, absolutely no attempt to provide evidence or even discuss the theories. It is a shame that Friedman and Healey never debated on TV. The brilliant Friedman would have quietly torn Healey into shreds without any apparent effort. Healey's delusions and prejudices would have been quickly exposed for mere ignorance in a process of pure logic - each move like a game of chess until a checkmate devastatingly in favour of Friedman who of course won a Nobel prize.

In the book he is scathing about Harold Wilson painting an alarming picture and calling him paranoid. I thought Healey's description of Wilson applies very accurately to Brown.

The book is long winded and quite hard work to read, it is not a page turner. Healey has clearly tried very hard to present himself in the best possible light and in this he fails completely. Healey's own book destroyed my respect for him.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Where Is He From?, 21 May 2007
By 
Ian Millard - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Time of My Life (Hardcover)
Healey stands apart from almost all British politicians of the post-WW2 era and from, I should say, all of the present time in his erudition and wide cultural knowledge and interest. I say that despite the fact that I have never thought of him (and I do not do so now) as a particularly likeable person, inasmuch as one can judge a someone one has never met. The book goes through his background (southern English but brought up in Yorkshire) and his highly academic education (Grammar School scholar, Balliol Exhibitioner) and on from there. His intelligence is not in doubt, his views can be. He becomes a Communist at Oxford in the 1930's and remains on for years because it seems "the only alternative to Hitler and his concentration camps", which ignores the fact that (despite huge efforts at secrecy) Stalin had far more and mostly far worse. It also ignores another fact: Life rarely offers simply a black and white simple choice. Neither does he mention the outright murder or indirect slaughter of millions in Russia and especially the Ukraine, the result of the Collectivization of agriculture etc. Healey joins the Army a while after the start of WW2 and end up a Major in the Royal Engineers, fighting mainly in Italy but also having quite a good time in places, as a staff officer with FANY girlfriends etc. He becomes a Labour Member of Parliament soon after WW2 and from then on is a major player in British politics right up to when this work was published in 1989 and beyond. It is a pity it was not published in 1999, that we might hear his views on the fudges of Blairism...He is, inevitably, against white rule in Africa, but look at what happens without the Europeans. He is not interested, at root. He evidences many Jewish connections, but is quite clear on the flaws in Israel and its policies and does not shrink from speaking out against the Jewish-Zionist lobby in America: he notes that Eisenhower was the only U.S. President to put America's interests before those of Israel.

I found this autobiography almost as remarkable for its omissions as anything: Oswald Mosley, at least one of the foremost politicos of the 1920's and 1930's, surely, is not even mentioned even critically or dismissively! Healey mentions some other philosophers and thinkers but not Rudolf Steiner; also, he glosses over his own linkages: the word Freemasonry nowhere appears, though he does briefly note his own attendance at the secretive (he says "private"...) Bilderberg Conferences and the World Economic Forum. What lies behind thse bodies, really? If he knows, he does not tell. The book is also light on his real vision of the future for the UK and the world. Everything is mechanistic and without colour.

There are a few mistakes, not many. He says that Cuba was turned into a casino under the dictator Trujillo. He means Batista, or perhaps Prio; Trujillo was the dictator of the Dominican Republic at the same time.

I am always struck by the length of specifically political autobiographies. Egotism? Perhaps so, an impression bolstered by stories Healey tells, which are VERY rarely against himself. Even while recounting his brush with the police in his car he has to show himself vindicated: "after a vote in the House" he crashes into the back of a car in London. On going to report the accident to the police at Tottenham Court Road station, he opens his car door and another car crashes into it. In the station a taxi driver says to the desk officer that Healey is drunk and he is breathylized. Positive, but he insists on a blood test, which is negative. Healey regards this as a vindication! But it is quite evident that he WAS intoxicated (drove into the rear of a car, failed to check before opening his car door later, breath test positive) and was simply lucky to be borderline so that the later blood test read negative. I wonder if his position and/or the Masonic handshake did not help, too.

He claims that allegedly conspiratorial organizations like the CFR are just a kind of club for well meaning friends etc...hm! Read Rule By Secrecy, None Dare Call It Conspiracy and other works. And as for friends, Healey seems to say that the luxury holidays in Riviera villas paid for by the Rockefeller Foundation are simply nice little presents for all his hard work, or unexpected little gifts. Really?

Healey was once described to me by a banking employee who dealt with his account as VERY affluent. I should add, perhaps, that I had no way of checking that assertion. Politics started to pay in those days, even before today's endless scandals. Healey mentions that he asked Heath where "the upper class" went to buy clothes. In the end though, later, he says, in effect, that he was too important to bother what people thought of his clothes. That really sums him up well.

Worth reading though.
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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best political autobiography that I have read, 12 Sep 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Time of My Life (Paperback)
Quite simply the best political autobiography that I have read. Denis justifies the process of politics itself and explains his own decisions in that context. How refreshing to be saved the 'how I had a brilliant career' self justification of so many political memoirs.
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