I heard the news this afternoon that Dennis Healey had died. He was 98. I do not usually rush to this blog with up to the minute news; this blog is about the things (the books the films, the art etc) that have taken root in my mind and heart. It is anything but ‘up to the minute’. Yet, Dennis Healey was the man who coined the phrase ‘hinterland’ that inspired this blog and gave it its title. I cannot let the moment pass without paying tribute.
Dennis Healey was a towering figure in my youth. In the 60s and 70s he was a leading figure in the Labour Party although he never was actually leader. Instead, he was the Defence Secretary and then Chancellor in Wilson and Callaghan Labour governments. He was of an age when politicians had made their mark and gained experience outside politics before entering parliament. The contrast with the modern politician who leaves university to work for an MP or a think tank before entering the Commons him or herself could not be starker. He was a successful politician because he knew about a life away from politics. He had something to offer because he had a life experience.
In many interviews he talked about his ‘hinterland’, that world beyond politics that he protected and kept private but which sustained him. For him, it was poetry, literature and music that enriched his life. Others will find their hinterland in other forms. What he identified was the need for one. Let’s hope that those in power have one, we are all the poorer if they do not.
My hinterland is expressed in this blog. What’s in yours?