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Monday, December 20, 2010

Anthony Howard and Brian Hanrahan

This weekend brought news of the deaths of two prominent journalists. In his long career Anthony Howard was the editor of the New Statesman and The Listener and a deputy editor of the Observer. I knew him best from TV. Ever since I can remember he was the bloke they brought on to late night politics programmes to comment on the latest plots at Westminster. Inevitably dressed in a pinstripe suit with a spotted tie and a decent collar he looked as if he’d come straight from dinner at Rules. He talked like a mandarin out of a John Le CarrĂ© novel. He spoke the esperanto of Whitehall fluently. What I came to value most was the fact that, unlike most political journalists, his experience went back before Margaret Thatcher. He could draw parallels between what was going on at the moment and the careers of RAB Butler or Reg Prentice. He must have spent his life reading political biographies. The New Statesman’s tribute to him includes his recommendations from this year. I shall follow them up.

The death of Brian Hanrahan was announced this morning. Hanrahan was one of those BBC lifers whose quiet professionalism built the corporation’s reputation. He is best known for having said “I counted them all out and I counted them back again” as the Harriers left the aircraft carrier during the Falklands War. I know him as the bloke who lived round the corner from me. We used to take the same bus occasionally. I often thought about engaging him in conversation but you don't, do you? Don’t exactly know what I would have said. Now he’s dead at 61.

Condolences to the families of both.