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Tuesday, 22 October 2013


Getting old's a bummer but it's a darn sight better than the alternative.

17 years ago I was working in the Treasury. Our team was made up of old stagers like me: we'd had a pretty combative year or so and we needed some new legs in the team. We interviewed a couple of candidates - bright, young things - proper economists who, unlike us, knew a sunk cost when it stuck its head over the parapet.

One is now working at a senior level in No 10 - he was at one point Gordon Brown's Principal Private Secretary. The other is dead.

Andrew, I think, was from Manchester. It wasn't an obvious accent, his family educating him away from Moss side. He'd studied at one of the Oxbridge colleges , was quiet, with a quiet humour and a tendency to put on weight and then lose it.

He was brought in to do the heavy lifting economically speaking in the lead up to devolution and the Northern Ireland Peace settlement in the early Blair years. He spent many a day and night in Belfast explaining the Gordon Brown economic peace package to hard nosed NI civil servants and Mo Mowlam, Labour's NI  Secretary of State.

He worked on Labour's employment initiatives and then won a place at the Ministry of Defence's College where he gained his MBA. Returning to the Treasury he got on with whatever job he was given. About three years ago he was promoted and his first team was  Pensions Policy a notoriously difficult brief to manage. Public sector pensions is quite simply one of the most infuriatingly interesting but complex  issues in the Treasury. The amount of money at stake is huge, the technicalities mind numbing and Andrew was extremely pleased to be heading that team.

The last time I met him was in a pub and we were celebrating his promotion.

And then cancer struck. I don't know how soon into his new job he discovered he'd got the "big C". I learnt from increasingly desperate e-mails from ex- colleagues that he was ill, having treatment and then that the cancer was incurable and he had a matter of months to live. A week or so ago we learnt that he'd been in hospital but was now at home - to die. He died on Saturday.

One of our group who worked with Andrew in those heady early days of Labour's first term tried to get his home address, but the message we received from the Treasury was that he didn't want to be contacted.

The Treasury's own internal news bulletin announced his death on Monday. We all hope that it will be possible to go to his funeral.

I knew very little of Andrew's private life, only during his illness did I learn he had a partner. He kept his private life separate from work which may explain why he didn't wish to be contacted during his illness.

Our thoughts are with his family and partner.


Steve said...

There but for the grace of God go we all. Sympathies all round.

John Gray said...

The older we all get....the more we experience these type of losses