Monday, 8 December 2014

February and March (p1) 2014 Memoriams

1st February 2014 – Luis Aragones, 75

Spanish football manager who was one of the main architects of the Tiki Taka style of play which has benefitted Barcelona and the Spanish national team in recent years. He won the Spanish league with Atletico Madrid in 1977, and won three Spanish Cups with them in four spells at the Madrid club. When they fell on hard times at the turn of this century, Aragones returned a final time to get them promotion back to La Liga.

 He had previously been an Atletico playing legend, with 172 goals in 372  league games.  

He took over a Spain side in low confidence, having crashed out in the group stage of  Euro 2004. Swiftly dropping most of the experienced players (Raul, for example, who had had “enough chances to win things”), Aragones put faith in younger players like David Villa and Xavi, and  coached his passing/attacking philosophy. 

Spain were undefeated in the 2006 World Cup qualifying. They were an early favourite for the 2006 World Cup with some scintillating displays (including a 4-0 smashing of Ukraine, then one of the toughest defences in Europe, which including a beautiful period of passing play between Fernando Torres and Carlos Puyol for the icing on the cake goal) before they went down 3-1 to France in dubious circumstances. 

Qualifying for the 2008 Euros, this time there was to be no error.  Whilst Spain started with the same breakneck style (4-1 over dark horses Russia), there was hints this was a more mature side. They came back from  setbacks against Greece (the reigning champions) and Sweden, beat the Italians in a game the old Spanish would have lost all day long, then saw off the Russians (again) and the Germans to win their first Championship since 1964. Aragones retired soon after – a disappointing spell in Turkey notwithstanding – but the Spain he had revived, with his blueprint, won the 2010 World Cup, and the 2012 Euros as well.  Despite some dubious personal views, there is no discounting the impact Aragones had on modern football.

“Aragonés did much to get Atlético as far as the European Cup final in Brussels in 1974, not least in Belgrade against Red Star, conquerors in the second round of Liverpool: he scored Atlético's first goal in a 2-0 win. The final – or to be precise, both finals, for there was a replay – was a strange affair. There were just six minutes left of extra time during the first encounter when Aragonés cleverly curled a free kick into Bayern Munich's goal. That seemed to be that, but almost with the last kick of the game the big Bayern central defender, Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck, thundered upfield to score from 30 yards. In the replay, Atlético collapsed and lost 4-0. After the first six games of the 1974-75 season, Atlético offered Aragonés their managership, and he promptly retired as a player. He had scored 160 goals in 360 league games. After six years managing Atlético, he briefly took over at Real Betis in 1981-82, before returning to Atlético for another five years. In 1987 he moved to Barcelona, succeeding the sacked Terry Venables, but lasted barely a single season, despite reviving the team.”
Brian Glanville, Guardian obit

 "Aragonés taught us to believe it was possible. He was the first to be convinced that we, as a team playing with a clear style, could win."
Carlos Puyol

1st February 2014 – Tony Hateley, 72

English footballer for Liverpool, Chelsea and Aston Villa in the 1960s. Father of Mark Hateley.

1st February 2014 – Vasily Petrov, 97

Long lived Russian Marshall of the USSR who fought in World War 2.

1st February 2014 – Maximilian Schell, 83

Actor who won the Oscar for his role in Judgment at Nuremburg. His role as a defence lawyer stole the show, even over the A-list of Hollywood at the time. He also had roles in Deep Impact, The Odessa File and A Bridge Too Far.

“Schell had received a university education in post-war Europe and came from a bookish, cultured background. He cared deeply about world politics and although of Austrian birth had become a naturalised Swiss citizen, proving that “different people with different languages can live together in peace”. Once, in a television rehearsal, he interrupted proceedings to announce that although he was cast as a German, he was actually Swiss.”
Telegraph obit

“His professional career began in earnest in 1953 at the Komodie of Basel. Over the next few years he appeared in “Manorhouse,” by Thomas Wolfe, and “The Tower,” by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. In 1957 he appeared in in the Berlin Theater’s “Philotas” as well as “Leonce.” The following year he made his Broadway debut in Ira Levin’s “Interlock” with Celeste Holm. He was described as “little short of brilliant” by Walter Kerr in the Herald Tribune. Schell was also a highly successful concert pianist and conductor, performing with such luminaries as Claudio Abbado and Leonard Bernstein, and with orchestras in Berlin and Vienna.” Richard Natale, Variety obit

2nd February 2014 – Philip Seymour Hoffman, 46

Oscar winning actor who won for his portrayal of Truman Capote in the self-titled biopic. Like Capote, struggled with personal demons.  Regarded as one of the finest actors of his generation. Also had roles in Mission Impossible III, Charlie Wilson’s War, Cold Mountain, Almost Famous, Twister and The Big Lebowski.

3rd February 2014 – Louise Brough, 90

Tennis player who won the Australian Open in 1950, the US Open in 1947 and Wimbledon four times (1948-50, 1955). She was womens number one in 1946,  and reached three French Open semifinals, but was unable to complete the grand slam. She was able to do so in the doubles however, with 29 titles over the four Slams.  She was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in 1967.

“A high-kicking American twist serve, terrific backhand and aggressive volleys enabled her to complete a Wimbledon singles hat-trick between 1948 and 1950 and extend her winning streak to 22 matches before losing in the semi-final of 1951 to another fine American player of that era, Shirley Fry. Just for good measure, she and Osborne duPont collected five Wimbledon doubles titles, while a variety of male players helped her to four mixed doubles titles as well. In 1949 she failed to win on reaching the mixed final but that was hardly a surprise as she was completing one of the most remarkable day's play by an individual ever seen at Wimbledon. Beginning that day with her exhausting singles victory over Osborne duPont by 10-8, 1-6, 10-8, she then teamed up with her to beat Gussie Moran and Patricia Todd in the doubles before losing that mixed partnership with John Bromwich, 7-9, 11-9, 7-5 (in the age before tie-breaks), to Eric Sturgess and Sheila Summers. Brough had played a total of 117 games and had been on court for more than five hours in an era when matches were played without changeovers.”
Richard Evans, Guardian obit

3rd February 2014 – Louan Gideon, 58

Actress who played the main villain in The Secret World of Alex Mack.

3rd February 2014 – Joan Mondale, 83

American author who was on the board of several arts trusts, and was the wife of former VP Walter Mondale.

5th February 2014 – Carlos Borges, 82

Uruguayan footballer, who scored four goals against Scotland in the 1954 World Cup.

5th February 2014 – Robert A Dahl, 98

Well regarded American political scientist.

“I had this sense that ideas about democracy, theories of democracy which I had learned about of course from graduate school on, from Aristotle and Plato onward, that they were inadequate. I don't want to diminish them; I have always retained a great respect for classical and medieval and eighteenth-century theory, but meanwhile a whole new kind of political system emerged to which the term democracy became attached, and for which democracy remained an ideal, even though classical democracy as an ideal was so far removed from reality. The gap between that ideal and the actual political institutions that had developed, particularly from about the sixteenth, seventeenth century on, was just enormous. And what we didn't have enough of, had very little of, was an adequate description of what the actual institutions of so-called democracy, modern democracy, representative democracy, were. As I've already said, they were radically different from historical democracy, and our descriptions of them and how they related to the ideals, I felt, at that time, were lacking.”
Robert A Dahl, in conversation with Margaret Levi for the June 2009 Annual Review of Political Science

“In 2002, The New Yorker said Professor Dahl was “about as covered with honors as a scholar can be” and quoted the Cornell scholar Theodore J. Lowi as calling him “the foremost political theorist of this generation.” Professor Dahl, who taught at Yale for 40 years, provided a definition of power that became a standard: “A has power over B to the extent that he can get B to do something that B would not otherwise do.” In two dozen books and hundreds of articles, Professor Dahl wrote about foreign policy, Congress, welfare, the Constitution and more. He was an early proponent of using real-world data and empirical analysis in the study of politics, but did not shrink from making judgments on large issues.“Over decades when political scientists focused on increasingly narrow and often technical questions, he’s the one person who brought everybody back to the big picture, the big questions,” James S. Fishkin, a professor of communications and political science at Stanford, said in an interview on Friday. “What is the form of democracy that will live up to democratic aspirations?””
Douglas Martin, New York Times

7th February 2014 – Christopher Barry, 88

Well regarded TV director who was responsible for ten Doctor Who stories over 16 years with the first four Doctors.  He was also responsible for episodes of The Tripods,  The Onedin Line, and All Creatures Great and Small.

“Inspired by a passionate interest in the performing arts he joined the script department at Ealing film studios. He was a producer's assistant on The Man in the White Suit (1951) before graduating to assistant director or second assistant director on many films including Lease of Life, Out of the Clouds and The Ship That Died of Shame.In 1955 he joined the BBC as a production assistant, after an exodus of talent to the new ITV network. His experience at Ealing ensured that directors with mostly theatrical experience relied on him to take care of tricky film sequences on their behalf, and so by 1958 he was directing on series such as the magazine soap opera Compact (1962) and the second world war anthology series Moonstrike (1963).”
Toby Hadoke, Guardian obit

8th February 2014 – Philippe Mahut, 57

Footballer who played for France in the 1982 World Cup.

8th February 2014 – Maicon, 25

Footballer who played for Shakhtar Donetsk.

10th February 2014 – Stuart Hall, 82

Cultural sociologist regarded as the “godfather of multiculturalism” who was a long time collaborator with Richard Hoggart.

“Hall was always among the first to identify key questions of the age, and routinely sceptical about easy answers. A spellbinding orator and a teacher of enormous influence, he never indulged in academic point-scoring. Hall's political imagination combined vitality and subtlety; in the field of ideas he was tough, ready to combat positions he believed to be politically dangerous. Yet he was unfailingly courteous, generous towards students, activists, artists and visitors from across the globe, many of whom came to love him. Hall won accolades from universities worldwide, despite never thinking of himself as a scholar. Universities offered him a base from which he could teach – a source of great pleasure for him – and collaborate with others in public debate.”
David Morley and Bill Schwarz, Guardian obit

“I’m talking about the riots, I’m talking about the Sus laws that picked up the kids on the street, the kind of criminalization of ghettos that happened in the ’70s, and the first generation who really had nowhere else to go, that had been born here, brought up in English schools, and were under enormous pressures. They drew on cultural resources to pull themselves together. For the current generation, the boys especially, there is a kind of diminution of a strong resistance culture, coupled with another kind of racism very much tied up with little Englanderism, with England, racing away from difference: Black, French, German . . . difference of any kind, which is the predominant mood in Britain at the moment. This has been very dispiriting, there’s a lot of individual survival, but there’s not that collective opposition or thrust, the counter surge of resistance culture, going on at the moment.”
Stuart Hall, interviewed by Caryl Phillips in BOMB magazine issue 58, 1997

He coined the term “Thatcherism” in a January 1979 article.

“For such a rigorous thinker, Hall displayed unusual kindness; tolerance and generosity of spirit were not only articles of faith for him, Akomfrah suggests, but also central to his character: "If you go to any of his birthday parties, which I have been doing for a while now, they always seem a very good indication of his influence and his warmth. There will be people there from literally every decade of his working life, people from the New Left era, from the Open University, from Iniva [a contemporary collective of young minority artists, of which Hall remains mentor-in-chief]. The age range is astonishing, and Stuart is there in the centre of it all …"
Tim Adams, Guardian 18 August 2013

“"Remember 1968, when everyone said that nothing changed, that nobody won state power. It’s true. The students didn’t win. But since then life has been profoundly transformed. Ideas of communitarianism, ideas of the collective, of feminism, of being gay, were all transformed by the impact of a revolution that did not succeed… So I don’t believe in judging the historical significance of events in terms of our usually faulty judgment of where they may end up.”
Stuart Hall

10th February 2014 – Ronnie Masterson, 87

Irish stage actress, who formed Old Quay Productions with her fellow actor husband, Ray McAnally.

“Ronnie and Ray went on from the Abbey to found their own company, Old Quay Productions, and it may have been the exigencies of surviving as an actor-manager that helped Ronnie to maintain her lifetime commitment to the actors' union, Equity. She had been a founding member in the Forties of its predecessor, WAMA, the actors' and managers' joint union, and she was on the executive of Irish Actors' Equity for many years. She and her husband separated many years ago, but Ronnie considered herself Ray's wife until his death in 1989. She was a regular in productions staged by Chris O'Neill's company at the Oscar Theatre in Ballsbridge in Dublin in the Seventies. In more recent years, Ronnie Masterson's appearances were confined to film, where she played Grandma Sheehan in Angela's Ashes in 1999, (while admitting to not having enjoyed the book!). She also played in Neil Jordan's highly successful Byzantium.”
Emer O’Kelly,  Irish Sunday Independent

10th February 2014 – Ian McNaught-Davis, 84

BBC Presenter who hosted Tommorow's World, The Computer Programme and BBC Micro.

10th February 2014 – Shirley Temple, 85

Famed former childs actress.

11th February 2014 – Sean Potts, 83

Tin whistle player and co-founder of the Chieftians

12th February 2014 – Sid Caesar, 91

American comic actor.

13th February 2014 – Ken Jones, 83

Actor who played Horrible Ives in Porridge.  He also had roles in Rumpole of the Bailey, Z-Cars, Dixon of Dock Green and The Adventures of Black Beauty.

13th February 2014 – Richard Moller Nielsen, 76

Football manager who won the 1992 European Championships with rank outsiders Denmark. His team had been on holiday when given a last minute wildcard into the tournament (via the explosion of Yugoslavia), but they responded by eliminating the French, English, Dutch and Germans, all of whom were more heavily fancied. Unpopular with the home Danish press, he didn’t even win their manager of the year award in 1992! Denmark also won the Confederations Cup in 1995 under his watch. In 1997, he took Finland within seconds of a World Cup playoff.

14th February 2014 – Tom Finney, 91

(public domain - source)

“Someone asked Brian Clough if his midfielder was as good as Tom Finney. Clough thought about it, and said “Aye, maybe. Though Finney is 60 nowadays.”
Anecdote often attributed to many outspoken English managers

Arguably England’s finest ever footballer. A one club man his career, he played fourteen years for Preston Northend.

“Tom Finney would have been great in any team, in any match and in any age ... even if he had been wearing an overcoat.”
Bill Shankly

He played in three World Cups.

“Finney had a glittering career, but little silverware to show for it – the price he paid for loyalty. The only medals he collected were for the 1941 Wartime cup (not regarded as a full football honour), when Preston beat Arsenal 2-1, and the 1951 Second Division championship.He even remained loyal to Preston when the Italian prince Roberto Lanza di Trabia made him an unimaginable offer to play for his team, Palermo, in Sicily. The prince had seen Finney play for England while they were touring Italy in 1952, and was so impressed he offered him a £10,000 signing-on fee, wages of £130 a month plus a bonus of up to £100 a game, a Mediterranean villa, a sports car and unlimited travel to and from Italy for his family. At the time, Finney was earning £14 a week with Preston (reduced to £12 in the summer close-season) plus a bonus of £2 for a win and £1 for a draw. To top up his wages, England's best footballer ran a plumbing business on the side. The club refused the transfer outright, even when a £30,000 fee was offered as compensation. Its desperation to hold on to Finney became apparent just a year after he retired. Deprived of its most inspirational figure, this historic small-town club – founder members of the Football League in 1888 and its first-ever champions – went into long-term decline.”
Brian Glanville, Guardian obit

“He was called up for international duty almost immediately, again marking his debut with a goal, this time against Northern Ireland in a 7-2 victory in Belfast. For much of his England career, Finney competed directly for a place with his friend, Stanley Matthews, provoking a nationwide debate as to their respective merits. In truth they were different types of player: Matthews all elusive elegance, Finney a surging, swerving dribbler.If the bamboozling style of Matthews was more enchanting to watch, Finney’s tenacity was the better appreciated by his team-mates. Yet Finney could also play on the left, and when the pair played on opposite wings England enjoyed notable success. In 1947 they put 10 goals past Portugal and the following year four into Italy’s net in Turin – a match that Finney considered the finest of his international career. The next year against Scotland a rifled shot from outside the penalty box brought Finney’s former commander, Bernard Montgomery, down to the dressing room to offer his congratulations.
Telegraph obit

14th February 2014 – John Henson, 48

Son of Jim Henson, and puppeteer himself.

15th February 2014 – Christopher Malcolm, 67

Scottish actor who was in the original Rocky Horror stage production, but also had roles in The Empire Strikes Back, Superman III and Only Fools and Horses.

16th February 2014 – Jimmy Murakami, 80

“The idea was clean, nice and silent. I don’t have happy endings. I create what seems natural and inevitable. The snowman melts, my parents died, animals die, flowers die. Everything does. There’s nothing particularly gloomy about it. It’s a fact of life.” Jimmy Murakami

Director of childrens Christmas TV classic The Snowman, and nuclear war downer cartoon When the Wind Blows.

17th February 2014 – Bob Casale, 61

Devo guitarist.

18th February 2014 – Nelson Frazier Jr, 43

Pro-wrestler known for his several tenures in the WWF/E as Mabel, Viscera and Big Daddy V. A hulking 500 pounder, he was Tag Team Champion in 1994, King of the Ring in 1995 and Hardcore Champion in 2000.  His last run ended in 2008 after a serious bout of pneumonia limited his ability to go full time, but he was often seen on the independent circuit. Able to play the villain or the hero, his versatility was shown in that he was at ease being both the “world’s largest love machine” (a popular playboy character) and an evil henchman of The Undertakers, within a few years of the other.

18th February 2014 – Malcolm Tierney, 75

(Tierney, right, with Catherine Dier - copyright Mark Dodds

Instantly recognisable TV and stage actor. In House of Cards, he played Patrick Woolton, the bullish Foreign Secretary who was the biggest rival to Francis Urquhart’s quest for power.  He had an early role in Public Eye as a policeman, before racking up appearances in The Sweeney, Star Wars and Poldark among many in the 1970s. In 1980, he played Richard Warrington in the post-WW2 drama The Spoils of War.  More TV was to follow, as he appeared in Bergerac, and as a recurring character, Tommy McArdle, in Brookside. The seemingly inevitable Doctor Who appearance followed, as Dolland, an evil botantist, in Trial of a Time Lord. But it was as antique dealer Charlie Gimbert in Lovejoy for which he was perhaps best known, or as DCC Raymond in Dalziel and Pascoe. Tierney had two runs of performances with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

“On stage, Tierney commanded a wider variety of parts . At the Royal Court, he was a youthful Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night (1968); and in the same year he played Disraeli in Edward Bond’s allegory Early Morning, which had to be shown to critics in a private afternoon performance after its evening show was banned by the Lord Chamberlain. He claimed that while the play was in progress, there were 200 police officers around the Royal Court.”
Telegraph obit

“Always serious and quietly spoken offstage, with glinting blue eyes and a steady, cruel gaze that served him well as authority figures on screen, Tierney was a working-class Mancunian who became a core member of the Workers' Revolutionary party in the 1970s. He never wavered in his socialist beliefs, even when the WRP imploded ("That's all in my past now," he said), and always opposed restricted entry to the actors' union, Equity. Offstage, he looked the part, wearing broad-brimmed hats and long coats and scarves, ideal casting when he took over as the bibulous actor-laddie Selsdon Mowbray in the National Theatre's delirious revival of Michael Frayn's Noises Off in 2000 on its transfer to the Comedy (now the Harold Pinter), via the Piccadilly. Earlier in the same year he played two sober authority figures in Margaret Edson's harrowing Wit at the Vaudeville, the first play to deal with ovarian cancer. Also on stage, he played the jazz singer George Melly, and Jim Robinson, one of the four men wrongly convicted of murdering the newspaper boy Carl Bridgewater in 1978; that solo performance in a 1999 play, Just Not Fair, was given on a double-bill with his friend Corin Redgrave’s recital of Oscar Wilde's De Profundis.” Michael Coveney, Guardian obit

18th February 2014 – Maria von Trapp, 99

Last surviving member of the Von Trapp family immortalised in The Sound of Music.

19th February 2014 – Dale Gardner, 65

Former NASA astronaut.

22nd February 2014 – Roger Milner

Actor who had roles in Brideshead Revisted, Doctor Who and Tales of the Unexpected.

23rd February 2014 – Alice Herz-Sommer, 110

Holocaust survivor. A documentary of her life, The Lady in Number 6, won an Oscar a week after her death.

“'People ask, 'How could you make music?' We were so weak. But music was special, like a spell, I would say. I gave more than 150 concerts there. There were excellent musicians there, really excellent. Violinists, cellists, singers, conductors and composers. I am looking for the nice things in life. I know about the bad things, but I look only for the good things.”
Alice Herz-Sommer, Guardian

24th February 2014 – Harold Ramis, 69

Actor/director responsible for Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, and Groundhog Day.

25th February 2014 – Dennis Turner, 71

Labour MP for Wolverhampton South East from 1987-2005. In 2005 he was made a life peer.

“For the Government to say that there has been so much progress during such a short period leaves a little doubt in my mind as to whether they are using an element of exaggeration and deceit about the present state of education.”
Dennis Turner,  27 November 1990, on teachers pay

“Very sad to hear about the passing of Dennis Turner. He dedicated his life to public service and the people of Wolverhampton and  Bilston.”
Ed Miliband

28th February 2014 – James Tague, 77

Eyewitness to the assassination of John F Kennedy who was injured by a bullet in the assassination.

1st March 2014 – Alain Renais

“Alain Resnais, who has died aged 91, was a director of elegance and distinction who, despite generally working from the screenplays of other writers, established an auteurist reputation. His films were singular, instantly recognisable by their style as well as through recurring themes and preoccupations. Primary concerns were war, sexual relationships and the more abstract notions of memory and time. His characters were invariably adult (children were excluded as having no detailed past) middle-class professionals. His style was complex, notably in the editing and often – though not always – dominated by tracking shots and multilayered sound.”
Brian Baxter, Guardian obit

1st March 2014 – John Wilkinson, 73

Conservative MP who was both MP for Bradford West from 1970-4 and for Ruislip from 1979-2005.  Although he most frequently spoke on defence issues, he came to fame in the 1990s as one of the Maastricht rebels.

“It is welcome that my hon. Friend [Philip Oppenheim] should spell out so unambiguously the potential consequences to this country of any imposition of a statutory minimum wage. In that regard, would it be only a self-imposed imposition, because neither European Union employment law, nor even the social chapter of the notorious Maastricht treaty itself, could impose such a requirement on this country?”
Wilkinson, 11th July 1995, a common political complaint at the time (and indeed, today?).

2nd March 2014 – Justin Kaplan, 88

Biographer of Walt Whitman.

2nd March 2014 – Stanley Rubin, 96

American producer (The Presidents Analyst).

3rd March 2014 – William Pogue, 84

NASA Skylab astronaut.

3rd March 2014 – Billy Robinson, 74

British pro-wrestler and trainer.

4th March 2014 – Elaine Kellet-Bowman, 90

Conservative MP for Lancaster from 1970-97, and MEP for Cumbria from 1979-84.

5th March 2014 – Prof. Ailsa McKay, 50

Scottish economist historian renowed for her work on the welfare state and equality.

“I first met Ailsa McKay in St Giles Cathedral.  We happened to be sitting together at the kirking of the Scottish Parliament and she enthusiastically explained her position on gender budgeting and the way Scottish Government policy could be shaped by her research group’s evidence to improve the quality of life of children, women and whole families in our nation.  She was of course preaching, in an appropriate place, to the converted. New to the University I asked her why she didn’t hold a Chair or prominent leadership role and she answered in her characteristically blunt and straight forward way that women were just not encouraged or supported to go for promotion."
Prof. Pamela Gillies, Vice-Chancellor,  Glasgow  Caledonian University

“This week, as we look forward to International Women’s Day, above all I think it is important that we note her astonishing contribution as a feminist economist, both in arguing the case for women into work, and in being the principal author and arguer for many years for the transformation of childcare that will make that possible.”
Alex Salmond, Scotsman

“Professor Ailsa McKay was a founding member of both the Scottish Women’s Budget Group and the European Gender Budget Network. She was also a member of the International Association for Feminist Economics and a noted academic whose reputation as an imaginative and original thinker was recognised more widely when she was appointed an adviser to the United Nations. McKay was also an expert witness at the budget scrutiny process of a number of Scottish Parliament committees and advised many other committees at Holyrood.Last November McKay appeared on BBC Radio Scotland’s Stark Talk and demonstrated her serious approach to social affairs alongside her delight in the unusual and an unending sense of fun. In the programme she explained how “being lousy at maths at school had motivated me to try harder and made me develop an interest in economics as a feminist subject”.Significantly, and appropriately, a scholarship founded in her name by the Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU), which she proudly served and loved, will inspire future generations of scholars to debate and campaign for social change.”
Alasdair Steven, Scotsman obit

“Ailsa was an academic whose formidable intellect and disciplinary excellence transcended academic boundaries leaving a profound impact on public policy, and enriching the lives of people in Scotland and beyond. Feisty and irrepressible in fighting for the causes she believed in, she was also recognised across Scottish public life for her warmth, passion, wit and incredible energy. Even during the period of her illness, her contributions to policy debates and campaigning activity were sustained.”
Herald obit

6th March 2014 – Marion Stein, 87

Concert pianist who was the wife of Jeremy Thorpe, and stood by him during his legal issues in the 1970s.

6th March 2014 – Luis Renteria, 25

Panama international footballer.

6th March 2014 – Maurice Faure, 92

Member of the French resistance in WW2 who went onto be a leading government minister. He was one of the co-signers of The Treaty of Rome.

7th March 2014 – Hal Douglas, 89

American voice over artist, who was also known as the narrator of Waterworld.

8th March 2014 – James Ellis, 82

Actor who appeared in over 600 episodes of Z-Cars as Sgt Lynch.

“When Ellis signed on for the series, it was intended to run for only six shows. It went on for four years before being dropped by the BBC, only to re-emerge in the spinoff shows Softly, Softly and Softly, Softly: Task Force, and then a revival of Z-Cars. During its long run, Ellis was often taken for a real policeman by people who recognised his face, while police officers who met him tended to give him advice on how his role could be made even more realistic. After Z-Cars ended in September 1978, Ellis continued to appear on TV in a wide range of programmes. In the Play for Today Billy trilogy (1982-84) he was Norman Martin, the violent father of a Protestant working-class family, with Kenneth Branagh in an early role as his son Billy. He was Peter Warmsly in the 1989 Doctor Who story Battlefield, and had regular roles in Nightingales (1990-93), the Channel 4 sitcom about security guards also starring Robert Lindsay and David Threlfall; In Sickness and in Health (1992, with Warren Mitchell as Alf Garnett); the football drama series Playing the Field (1998-2002); and the BBC Northern Ireland drama Ballykissangel (1998-99, as Uncle Minto). His films included No Surrender (1985), Priest (1994) and Resurrection Man (1998).”
Dennis Barker, Guardian obit

8th March 2014 – William Guarnere, 90

One of the last surviving Band of Brothers WW2 vets.

9th March 2014 – John Christie, 84

Goalkeeper with nearly 200 league appearances for Southampton throughout the 1950s.

10th March 2014 – Joe McGinniss, 71

American non-fiction writer. His book on The Miracle of Castel di Sangro, a minnow in the Italian football leagues who had won promotion to the second division, is one of the finest written about the sport. And by an American admittedly new to the sport too. McGinniss’s year with the mountain team coincided with mafia involvement, political machinations, and the tragic death of two players. He came face to  face with the corruption oft alleged to be rife in the Italian lower leagues.  He was already a well respected (if controversial) author by that point, with his book on the PR of Richard Nixon, The Selling of the President, becoming a best seller in 1969.  The controversy came with the book Fatal Vision, about the Jeffrey MacDonald murders.  MacDonald had hired  the acclaimed McGinniss to write the book about his evidence, but McGinniss decided early in his research that the man was guilty and set about trying to prove it. Thus began a big ethics debate in journalism sbout McGinniss “pretending” to believe in a man’s innocence to get the information needed for the best story. Nethertheless, Fatal Vision was an immediate best seller (despite legal challenges) and was his best selling work.

“In 1968, while on a train to New York to interview Howard Cosell, McGinniss met an advertising executive who had landed the account for presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey, and boasted that "in six weeks we'll have him looking better than Abraham Lincoln". Intrigued, McGinniss sought access to the Humphrey campaign. After being refused, he was surprised when campaign aide Leonard Garment allowed him full access to Richard Nixon's advisers. The resulting book, The Selling of the President 1968, published the following year, marked a step-change in campaign journalism, away from the reassuring "behind the scenes" work of Theodore White's Making of the President series. Media was changing politics, as was evident from Nixon's failure in the televised debates with John Kennedy of 1960. The brilliance orchestrated eight years later by the adman Harry Treleaven and the TV producer Roger Ailes turned Tricky Dick, the man from whom America would not buy a used car, into Nixon the likeable everyman-turned-statesman. McGinniss had fly-on-the-wall access and like a documentary film-maker he allowed the characters to speak for themselves, revealing the cynicism behind the sales approach. The result was the young, media-friendly McGinniss's first bestseller, and he became a staple of television talk shows.”
Michael Carlson, Guardian obit

11th March 2014 – Bob Crow, 52

British railway trade union leader.

12th March 2014 – Iola Brubeck, 90

Wife, muse, manager and lyricist of Dave Brubeck.

12th March 2014 – Richard Coogan, 99

American actor.

14th March 2014 – Tony Benn, 88

"The crisis that we inherit when we come to power will be the occasion for fundamental change and not the excuse for postponing it"
Tony Benn, Labour Party conference, 1973.

“Tony immature with age.” Harold Wilson

The WW2 RAF pilot who became a potential leader of his own country, then a left wing firebrand deemed dangerous, and finally as a national treasure. Yet, it was difficult to lump Anthony Wedgewood Benn in any one box, and one gets the feeling he’d have jumped right back out of it if so.

His father, William Benn, had been a leading Labour politician of the  1920s and 30s. While he fought with distinction during WW2, a moment which was to shape his life occurred. His older brother (the direct heir to the peerage) Michael was killed in action.

“Through decades, Mr. Benn, a notable orator with a slight lisp, preached in chilly town halls, on the hustings and in the Commons. He had a single theme: socialism and the cause of “working people and their families.” No setback ever seemed to depress him — not five failed attempts to become Labour leader or deputy leader, not getting dumped from the party hierarchy in the ’80s, not the emasculation of the labor unions by Thatcher, not Labour’s transformation, not the personal criticism.“The five lines about me are: you’re an aristocrat, you’re a multimillionaire, you’re a hypocrite, you’re mad, you’re ill,” Mr. Benn said in a 1994 newspaper interview. “It took me a while to realize that their purpose was to discourage people from listening to what I am saying.””
Cassandra Vinograd, Washington Post obit

Replacing the ailing Stafford Cripps in the 1950 election (for Bristol South East), the young moderate reforming Benn was a friend of Tony Crosland and Harold Wilson, as opposed to the more firebrand Bevanites.

“Tony Benn was a powerful, fearless, relentless advocate for social justice and people’s rights whose writing as well as speeches will continue to have a profound influence on generations to come. My thoughts are with his family, whom he adored.” Gordon Brown, Politics Home

“Change from below, the formulation of demands from the populace to end unacceptable injustice, supported by direct action, has played a far larger part in shaping British democracy than most constitutional lawyers, political commentators, historians or statesmen have ever cared to admit. Direct action in a democratic society is fundamentally an educational exercise.”
Tony Benn, New Politics, 1970

In 1960, Benn’s father collapsed in the House of Lords, and later died in hospital. The title of Viscount Stansgate transferred immediately as a hereditary peerage to Tony.  [An irony was that  Benn Sr had been wary of taking a hereditary peerage, and had only accepted as the elder Michael was willing to take his place in the Lords – then Michael died soon after the peerage was accepted.] As a peer, he was disqualified from the House of Commons and standing as an MP. Benn was appalled and spent several by-elections and years fighting for the right to revoke his peerage. When he finally succeeded in petitioning the Peerage Act of 1963 into being, he had officially renounced his peerage within 20 minutes of the law passing!

“[Benn] will be remembered as a champion of the powerless, a great parliamentarian and a conviction politician. Tony Benn spoke his mind and spoke up for his values. Whether you agreed with him or disagreed with him, everyone knew where he stood and what he stood for.For someone of such strong views, often at odds with his party, he won respect from across the political spectrum.This was because of his unshakeable beliefs and his abiding determination that power and the powerful should be held to account.He believed in movements and mobilised people behind him for the causes he cared about, often unfashionable ones. In a world of politics that is often too small, he thought big about our country and our world.”
Ed Miliband

With the Labour election win of 1964, Benn became Postmaster General and later Technology Minister (heavily involved in the creation of Concorde).

Around the time of the 1970 election, Benn was talked up as the potential successor to Harold Wilson. Wilson lost the election – surprisingly – however, and kept on in power as Labour leader. One ECC Referendum campaign which split the party later, things had moved considerably by 1976 – in the leadership election first round, Benn didn’t even receive 12% of his fellow MP’s vote. But by this time, Tony Benn had started his path to more radical left wing views. He had campaigned alongside the Upper Clyde Shipworkers with Jimmy Reid.

In 1980, after Thatcher’s election win the previous year, Benn stood against Denis Healey for the Deputy Leadership of the Labour party. Benn thought it was a great opportunity for the debate over the future of the party to be “healthy” and “robust”. His critics felt the party was eating itself, and many pointed towards or even joined the Social Democratic Party  the following year. Boundary changes removed his seat, but Benn refused to move to a safe seat, and contested the new Bristol South seat. He lost the 1983 election, and whilst he was back in Parliament, in Chesterfield, in 1984, this window of opportunity lost killed Benn’s last real chance to lead his own party.

Not that he gave up – he ran against Kinnock for the leadership in 1988. And lost.

“I will remember him as a great member of parliament, a political activist, a great diarist, an MP who believed not only in parliamentary activity but also in extra-parliamentary activity. He was a socialist colleague in a constituency next to mine for something like 17 years so we campaigned together and I well remember traversing the country with him during the miner’s strike in 1984/85. He was one of the greatest assets the Labour party has ever had. He was a campaigner and a teacher. His whole idea was about trying to influence people, not just in parliament but outside too.” Dennis Skinner

“Benn stood against Labour's growing moral vacuity and a political class that was losing touch with the people it purported to represent. The escalating economic inequalities, the increasing privatisation of the National Health Service, the Iraq war and the deregulation of the finance industry that led to the economic crisis – all of which proceeded with cross-party support – leave a question mark over the value of the unity on offer. What some refuse to forgive is not so much his divisiveness as his apostasy. He was a class traitor. He would not defend the privilege into which he was born or protect the establishment of which he was a part. It was precisely because he knew the rules that he would not play the game.He hitched these principles to Labour's wagon from an early age. Its founding mission of representing the interests of the labour movement in parliament was one he held dear. He never left it even when, particularly as he got older, it seemed to leave him. His primary loyalty was not to a party but to the causes of internationalism, solidarity and equality, which together provided the ethical compass for his political engagement. When people told him that they had ripped up their party membership cards in disgust, he would say: "That's all well and good. But what are you doing now?"”
Gary Younge, Guardian

He supported the Miners Strike, the Anti-Iraq War protests (founding the Stop the War campaign in the process) and was against asylum crackdown policies.

“"I opposed the Suez war, I opposed the Falklands war. I opposed the Libyan bombing and I opposed the Gulf war and I never believed that any of those principled arguments lost a single vote - indeed, I think they gained support though that was not why you did it. What has been lacking in Labour politics over a long period is a principled stand"
Tony Benn, 1992

“In the late 70s and early 80s, when Benn was at the height of his powers, even his political enemies were in awe of him. This was Ivan Rowan, the political correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph, reporting on the Chesterfield byelection in February 1984 where Benn was returned to parliament, following his defeat at Bristol nine months earlier: "What a lovely performer he still is. I entreat any Conservative or Alliance supporter or, for that matter, disaffected Labour voter who may be reading this to go and hear him … he is 59 and will not be on the boards for ever; and he is the sort of artist and showman like Lloyd George or FE Smith, you should not miss for fear that you will be found wanting when your children ask the inevitable question: 'Daddy, where were you when Mr Benn was at Chesterfield?'" He never lost his ability to inspire. In old age, though physically frail, he was reincarnated as a national treasure, filling theatres the length and breadth of the country. A few years back, when Benn was in his mid-80s, I found myself sitting next to him at one of the monthly lunches organised by The Oldie magazine. The guests were mainly prosperous, home counties people who would have run a mile from the Benn of old, but within minutes he had them eating out of his hand.”
Chris Mullin, Guardian

“"He believed history shows us that big progressive changes in society are driven not by political elites, but by the endeavours of ordinary working people. His commitment to our causes meant that he was a familiar face at union events from Congress to the annual Tolpuddle Martyrs festival. His unceasing willingness to march alongside us and the deep sincerity he showed to everyone he encountered in the labour movement means that he leaves many friends, and has personally inspired the activism of many people from all walks of life."
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady

“A rebellious scion of a political dynasty, Mr. Benn embraced a socialist position to the left of many of his colleagues in the Labour Party, particularly as it moved to the center under Prime Minister Tony Blair in the 1990s. While Britain’s political elite resisted and diluted union power, Mr. Benn championed labor union rights. While many Britons embraced the European Common Market in the 1970s, Mr. Benn opposed continued membership. And while Mr. Blair led the country to war in Iraq and elsewhere, Mr. Benn, a prominent advocate of nuclear disarmament, campaigned for peace. After abandoning mainstream parliamentary politics he continued to goad Mr. Blair about his ties with President George W. Bush. In the dispute over Iran’s nuclear technology, Mr. Benn said in 2005, “We might be told that Britain must support Bush, yet again, because of the threat of weapons of mass destruction, thus allowing him to kill even more innocent civilians.” Alan Cowell, New York Times obit

In 2001, following the death of his wife Caroline the previous year (from which he never truly recovered), he stood down as an MP after the better part of 50 years, claiming it gave him “more time for politics”.  And so he protested against everything he disagreed with, or he felt affected the vulnerable adversely.  Despite health issues (pacemakers, strokes, and the like) he was able to become the elder statesman talking head whenever the BBC needed someone to talk about Palestine, or a deceased politician (all of whom, no matter their party, tended to be “to the left of Tony Blair”!), or if John Bolton needed a good skewering on Question Time.

“I was born about a quarter of a mile from where we are sitting now and I was here in London during the Blitz. And every night I went down into the shelter. 500 people killed, my brother was killed, my friends were killed. And when the Charter of the UN was read to me, I was a pilot coming home in a troop ship: 'We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind.' That was the pledge my generation gave to the younger generation and you tore it up. And it's a war crime that's been committed in Iraq, because there is no moral difference between a stealth bomber and a suicide bomber. Both kill innocent people for political reasons.”
Tony Benn, slapping down John Bolton on Question Time

He was perhaps seen as the jovial old grandpa of British politics in his final decade – a description one can almost feel him rising from the grave to protest – and that lulled people into a false sense of security, like the aforementioned Bolton, or the BBC presenter who wound up letting Benn read out the Gaza Appeal Hotline number and PO Box live on air, despite a BBC blanket ban.

“I have always tried to be optimistic, because optimism is, I believe, the fuel of progress. Cynicism is encouraged by people who don’t want anything to happen or to ever change. If you can persuade people that whoever they vote for doesn’t matter then that discourages them from making progress. You have to keep hope alive. And I have drawn comfort from looking at historical examples of how we have got rid of slavery, how women got the vote and how it was all achieved when people organised and campaigned. When you do that you go through various stages. First you are ignored. Then they say you’re mad, then dangerous and then finally you win and then you can’t find anyone at the top who doesn’t claim to have thought of it in the first place. That’s how change happens. That’s why however bleak things might appear, I do still believe if people organise and if the streets were full of people demanding different policies then something would happen.”
Benn, 2013, in the Daily Mirror

He was a considerable diarist, and wrote some of the finest political commentaries of the 20th Century. Lengthy, analytical, self-critical, and holding no punches on his views of his adversaries and team mates. Some of the days which stick in mind are those on the mind of brevity, however – his only comment for 6th July 1960 is striking in its four words alone: “Nye Bevan died today”. Others get lengthy tributes, but there in black and white lies the naked honest of hurt... The contemporary nature of each day gives less time for retrospect and framing the topic to make people look better, so there is a natural honesty lacking in biography, or in the diaries of those who expected to publish.

“The House will forgive me for quoting five democratic questions that I have developed during my life. If one meets a powerful person--Rupert Murdoch, perhaps, or Joe Stalin or Hitler--one can ask five questions: what power do you have; where did you get it; in whose interests do you exercise it; to whom are you accountable; and, how can we get rid of you? Anyone who cannot answer the last of those questions does not live in a democratic system.” Speech to the House of Commons, 16 Nov 1998

“"I made every mistake in the book. But making mistakes is how you learn. I would be ashamed if I ever said anything I didn't believe in, to get on personally. You look back and, when you're in a critical mood, you see you made errors of judgement. But as long as you say what you believe and believe what you say - that's the test of authenticity."
To the Today programme

His son Stephen has claimed the Viscount Stansgate peerage on the death of his father.

““If I'm a national treasure in the Telegraph, something's gone wrong."
Tony Benn, 2013