28 February 2010


The journalist and novelist Mervyn Jones, who has died at the age of 87, was one of the stalwarts of the British left intellectual scene for nearly half a century. The son of Sigmund Freud’s collaborator and biographer Ernest Jones, he was a member of the Communist Party as a young man but became a Bevanite Labour left-winger in the early 1950s, joining Tribune as a journalist in 1955 and playing a leading role in the paper’s supportive coverage of the first incarnation of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. He subsequently had a spell as deputy editor on the New Statesman. He continued to contribute to Tribune and the Statesman until well into his 70s.

His novels are little-read today – but in the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s they were widely admired. In recent years he was probably best known for his 1989 autobiography Chances (one of the best left memoirs of the 1950s) and his sympathetic 1994 biography of his friend Michael Foot.

I first met him through European Nuclear Disarmament during the 1980s. He was a member of its publications committee, along with several other veterans of the first new left who, like him, had worked for E. P. Thompson on New Reasoner in the late 1950s. We got on well, and over the next decade he was one of my regular writers on Tribune and then the New Statesman (as well as a regular at Tribune and Statesman social events). He always wrote lucidly and was excellent company – and it’s very sad to see him go.

17 February 2010


I am sad to hear of the death last week at the age of 85 of the writer Colin Ward. He was Britain's most influential anarchist of the late 20th century, and the monthly journal Anarchy, which he founded and edited from 1961 to 1970, was one of the best political periodicals of its time. He was a prolific author, too: among his books are Anarchy in Action (1973), as eloquent an espousal of Kropotkinian anarchism as has ever been written, and several works on housing, transport and urban planning (his day job in the 1950s was as an architect and he later worked for the Town and Country Planning Association). I got to know him in the 1990s, when he wrote a weekly column for the New Statesman that never failed to surprise in its range of subject matter. He was a regular at Statesman lunches and a great conversationist, and everyone who knew him will miss him.

Update: Boyd Tonkin, with whom I worked on the New Statesman and who knew Colin much better than I did, has a warm appreciation here in the Independent.