Denis Healey

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Denis Winston Healey, Baron Healey, PC (born 1917-08-30), is a British Labour politician and former Defence Secretary and Chancellor of the Exechequer.


  • I think the Services can be rightly very upset at the continuous series of defence reviews which the Government has been forced by economic circumstances—and maybe economic mistakes too—to carry out...
  • On BBC Television's Panorama programme (22 January, 1968).
  • Once we cut defence expenditure to the extent where our security is imperilled, we have no houses, we have no hospitals, we have no schools. We have a heap of cinders.
  • Speech in the House of Commons (Hansard, 5 March, 1969, Col. 551).
  • We are all agreed on a massive extension of public ownership.
  • Speech in York (2 June, 1973).
  • We shall increase income tax on the better off so that we can help the hundreds of thousands of families now tangled helplessly in the poverty trap by raising the tax threshold and introducing reduced rates of tax for those at the bottom of the ladder. I warn you, there are going to be howls of anguish from the rich. But before you cheer too loudly let me warn you that a lot of you will pay extra taxes too.
  • Speech to the Labour Party Conference at Blackpool (1 October, 1973).
  • It has never been my nature, I regret to admit to the House, to turn the other cheek.
  • Speech in the House of Commons (Hansard, 18 December, 1974, Col. 1620).
  • No country would suffer more than Britain from an international trade war, since we depend more on world trade than any of our competitors. That is why we cannot accept the proposal made in some quarters that we should seek to solve our problems through imposing import controls for a long period over a whole range of manufactured consumer goods.
  • Speech in the House of Commons (Hansard, 17 December, 1975, Col. 1409).
  • They must be out of their tiny Chinese minds.
  • Attacking left-wing critics of spending cuts, implying they were Maoist (The Daily Telegraph, 24 February, 1976).
  • By the end of next year, we really shall be on our way to that so-called economic miracle we need.
  • In an Ministerial broadcast on the Budget (6 April, 1976).
  • If we can keep our heads—and our nerve—the long-awaited economic miracle is in our grasp. Britain can achieve in the Seventies what Germany and France achieved in the Fifties and Sixties.
  • The Sunday Telegraph (4 July, 1976).
  • The alternative to getting help from the IMF would be economic policies so savage I think they would produce riots in the streets, an immediate fall in living standards and unemployment of three million.
  • On ITN's News at Ten (29 September, 1976).
  • I am going to negotiate with the IMF on the basis of our existing policies, not changes in policies, and I need your support to do it. (Applause) But when I say "existing policies", I mean things we do not like as well as things we do like. It means sticking to the very painful cuts in public expenditure (shouts from the floor) on which the Government has already decided. It means sticking to a pay policy which enables us, as the TUC resolved a week or two ago, to continue the attack on inflation. (Shout of, "Resign".)
  • Labour Party Annual Conference Report 1976, p. 319
  • Speech at the Labour Party Conference, 30 September 1976. Healey had been forced to abandon plans to attend an international finance ministers' conference in order to speak to the conference because of a run on the pound.
  • No Government can produce an economic miracle. An economic miracle depends on people on the shop floor, in the board room, in the sales office, working a bit harder and more efficiently than they have worked in the past.
  • On BBC TV (15 December, 1976).
  • I start with the measures which the Government announced last Thursday, and which are the immediate occasion of today's debate, and to which the right hon. Gentleman finally came round - a trifle nervously, I thought - after ploughing through that tedious and tendentious farrago of moth-eaten cuttings presented to him by the Conservative Research Department. I must say that part of his speech was rather like being savaged by a dead sheep.
  • NATO's nuclear strategy is an essential part of that balance [between East and West]. To threaten to upset it by refusing to let America base any of her nuclear weapons in Britain would make war more likely, not less likely.
  • The Guardian (14 August, 1981).
  • I would fight to change the policy before the General Election. If I failed then I wouldn't accept office in a Labour Government.
  • On unilateral nuclear disarmament. (The Guardian, 15 September, 1981).
  • It is totally unproven that the increase in the money supply has a short term or medium term connection with inflation and prices.
  • Speech in the House of Commons (Hansard, 11 November, 1981, Col. 552).
  • Faced with the difficulties of unilateral reflation some socialists are tempted to seek salvation through trade restrictions or competitive devaluation. But such beggar-my-neighbour policies, if pursued on the scale required...are more likely to lead to a trade and currency war than to insulate their sponsors from the recession in the outside world.
  • Speech in Paris (12 November, 1982).
  • We will put Polaris into the arms talks with the Soviet Union and hope to phase it out in multilateral negotiations...if the Russians … fail to cut their nuclear forces accordingly it would be a new situation that we could consider at that time.
  • The Times (25 May, 1983).
  • [Margaret Thatcher is] wrapping herself in a Union Jack and exploiting the services of our soldiers, sailors and airmen and hoping to get away with it. The Prime Minister who glories in at this very moment lending the military dictatorship in Buenos Aires millions of pounds to buy weapons, including weapons made in Britain, to kill British servicemen with, and that is an act of stupefying hypocrisy.
  • Healey was forced to retract this statement and claimed he had meant to say "conflict" rather than "slaughter". (The Guardian, 2 June, 1983).
  • What almost halved the support for the Labour Party was the feeling that it has lost its traditional common sense and its humanity to a new breed of sectarian extremism.
  • On the 1983 general election (The News of the World, 19 June, 1983).
  • So long as the Soviet Union has nuclear weapons there have to be nuclear weapons somewhere in NATO to deter them from using them.
  • The Tribune (28 March, 1986).
  • The reason we were defeated in so far as defence played a role is that people believe we were in favour of unilaterally disarming ourselves. It wasn't the confusion. It was the unilateralism that was the damaging thing.
  • Explaining Labour's defeat in the 1983 election in an interview in Marxism Today (April, 1986).
  • He has never been a Minister, lacks experience, and people know it. In troubled times, the electorate looks for a strong leader and Mrs Thatcher is seen as one.
  • The US, whether we like it or not, has nuclear weapons. The US is a member of NATO. Possession by the US of nuclear weapons is obviously a deterrent.
  • The London Standard (30 September, 1986).
  • No. Absolutely not. I think that the Russians are praying for a Labour victory...praying is perhaps an unfortunate choice of words. I think that they would much prefer a Labour government and that the idea that they would prefer a Tory government, I think is utter bunkum, and they [the Soviets] authorized me to say so.
    • Answering a suggestion that the Soviets would prefer a Conservative government led by Margaret Thatcher than a Labour government headed by Neil Kinnock at a press conference in Moscow after a meeting with Anatoly Dobrynin (11 May, 1987).
    • E. B. Geelhoed, Margaret Thatcher: In Victory and Downfall, 1987 and 1990 (Greenwood, 1992), pp. 120-1.


  • Silly billy!
  • A catchphrase used by impressionist Mike Yarwood when 'doing' Healey, and subsequently adopted by Healey himelf.

Quotes about Healey

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