Politicians from all major parties have paid tribute to former New Statesman editor and Observer deputy editor Anthony Howard who died yesterday aged 76.
Over half a century in journalism Howard wrote for a number of leading newspapers – predominantly The Guardian and Times – was a frequent broadcast political commentator and in later years worked as obituaries editor of The Times.
Prime minister David Cameron said: “I was saddened to hear the news of his death. He was a great editor and author – British politics has lost one of its best informed and talented commentators.
“His work on the Crossman diaries was ground-breaking and his biography of Rab [Butler] was superb. He will be greatly missed.”
Leader of the Opposition Ed Milliband said Howard was “not just a distinguished political commentator, but someone who conveyed the excitement and importance of the events on which he was commenting.
“He knew the trivial from the important, the dramatic from the humdrum and could see round the next political corner.
“His raised eyebrow at the twists and turns of politics and the depth and rigour of his analysis will be sorely missed.”
Tory party grandee Michael Heseltine said: “It is a terrible shock. Tony was one of my oldest friends.
“He was a very kind and warm-hearted person with a deep, deep compassion.
“He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of contemporary British politics and the personalities that made it up and he had a very distinguished journalistic career.”
After reading jurisprudence at Oxford, where he was president of the union and features editor of student newspaper Isis, Howard got his break in journalism when a journal he wrote while serving as an army officer during the 1957 Suez Crisis was published in the New Statesman – in breach of army regulations.
The Times obit today notes: “Their publication was a sensationâ€¦Although he had already been called to the Bar by the Inner Temple, the pleasure of seeing his opinions in print convinced him that his future lay in journalism.”
Howard worked on a Sunday newspaper called Reynolds News before joining the Guardian. He went on to work for the New Statesman as a political correspondent before joining the Sunday Times as Whitehall correspondent.
He also worked as chief North America correspondent for the Sunday Times before returning to the UK to edit the New Statesman in 1972.
After editing the New Statesman, Howard took up the post as editor of BBC-sponsored newspaper The Listener before being invited to become deputy editor of The Observer. He finished his print journalism career as Times obituaries editor, all the while retaining a parallel career as a broadcaster and political commentator.
Today’s Times obit says of his last staff position: “It was a job which gave full scope to his interest in the minutiae of political history; to his curiosity about humanity and its weaknesses; to his fascination with the way society works; and to his not inconsiderable delight in making mischief.”
New Statesman editor Jason Cowley told Press Gazette today: “I first met Tony Howard when I joined the Times in the mid-1990s – I was a staff writer and he was obituaries editor. But of course I already knew him through his journalism and work for the BBC.
“Tony was an inspiration: an old-style, scholarly, gentleman journalist, who had a wonderfully encyclopedic knowledge of British politics.
“Above all, he was a good and generous man, and was especially supportive of younger journalists. I feel profoundly sad that he will not be here to celebrate the centenary of the New Statesman, which he edited with such distinction from 1972-1978. Tony: we’ll miss you so much.”