I’m sorry to hear of the demise of Alexander Cockburn, who has died in Germany at the age of 71. The son of Claud Cockburn, the gadfly communist who edited and published The Week in the 1930s and inspired Private Eye’s founders, he had a long career as a left journalist in the US, notably for Village Voice, the Nation and, for the past 17 years, the newsletter CounterPunch, which he co-edited.
He was the main American correspondent of the New Statesman when I was its deputy editor in the 1990s, and I had the task of extracting copy from him. It was usually late and too often a hastily topped-and-tailed version of what had already appeared under his byline in the Nation: every time we had a slot booked for him we had to have a substitute ready in case his piece failed to show or was unusable. He could have filled several LPs with recordings of answer-phone variants on the theme: "For Christ's sake, Alex! Where's the fucking copy?"
But he was worth forgiving for his best work, which was stunning, and unlike many others on the Statesman roster he was personally charming. He was a tremendously talented and likeable man who will be missed even by commissioning editors who couldn't stomach his crude Stalinist politics.