In Britain he established himself as a journalist in an unprecedented role, setting himself up freelance (after spells on various newspapers) as compiler and editor of Parliamentary Profiles, a more-or-less-regularly updated précis of his increasingly exhaustive files on every single MP in the country, published in multiple volumes as and when funds permitted, that became a bible for every political journalist in Westminster. Without his efforts, there would be none of the scrutiny of our representatives that we now take for granted.
I worked with Andy on the New Statesman in the 1990s and fed him material for Profiles – and he reciprocated by allowing me to use his archive for free. That would have been a decent deal in itself, but he added value with his conversation. He had been a Communist Party member (or at least a fellow traveller) in the late 1930s at City College in New York, and he retained a sharp eye for minute but telling ideological differences on the left well into his 80s.
He couldn’t really avoid the communist connection: as a US intelligence officer in 1945 he had been arrested for leaking state department material that appeared in an obscure communist-sympathetic magazine, Amerasia, and the case rolled on high-profile for five years before he upped and left America. The red-scare line was that he was a Soviet spook. He said, and I believe it, that he was just a popular-frontist with an area of expertise who worked with fellow free spirits and a few useful idiots. But he could never have been a Trotskyist, he insisted, and the Mensheviks were just irrelevant…
He was very good company and very rude about his enemies. Raise a glass.
- Ian Aitken has an obituary here.