Roy (‘Woy’) Jenkins is dead
The last of the great lunchers has passed away. Former Home Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer and founder of the Social Democratic Party, also known as the Claret Drinker’s Friend. At first sight you might think him a booby (especially given his plummy voice and inability to pronounce the letter ‘R’), but he was a shrewd, intelligent and liberal man. I saw him in action once. It was in the early 1970s and I was working in the Back Half [literary section] of the New Statesman. Jenkins came in to deliver the copy of a book review we had commissioned (can you imagine a major politician nowadays bringing in his own copy?) and bumped in to the Editor, Tony Howard. After an exchange of pleasantries, Tony said that they were due to meet that evening at VS Pritchett’s birthday party. “So we are”, said Woy. “You know”, continued Tony, “it’s shameful that he has never had a gong [honour]”. “So it is”, replied Woy, “I’ll do something about it”. And he did: Pritchett was knighted shortly afterwards.