A great Tory. And a great man. Bill Deedes, the model for Waugh's William Boot, was my first editor. No one ever had a better example for a career in journalism. The Telegraph obituary does him about as much justice as an obit can:
"The snapshot I carry of Bill in my head," noted the paper’s cartoonist Nicholas Garland, "is of him tilted back in his chair with one foot on his desk; smoke is curling from his cigarette; his tie is loosened, and he is grinning."
But this supposed exponent of the easy option had won the Military Cross during the war. This seeming flaneur found his content in unremitting work.
This apparent bumbler was one of the best journalists of his time, always eager for travel and adventure, fertile in shrewd perceptions, and blessed with the ability to convey them with a clarity and simplicity none but the best writers attain.
Somehow, he was the most world-weary and the most innocent of men. The Guardian's Peter Preston, no ideological ally, loved him nonetheless:
It wasn't merely the energy of a nonagenarian that inspired a kind of awe, though. It was what he wrote and the way he wrote it that counted. Take his last column, only a couple of weeks ago, penned from his bed.
'It is time the world was shaken awake to the infamy of what is going on in Darfur,' he wrote.
'In terms of man's inhumanity to man, what has been going on there for four years is now comparable to the death camps for which Germany's Nazis were found guilty. That statement may provoke cries of outrage from some: surely the Holocaust stands alone? Not to me it doesn't, and as a soldier I had to enter one of those camps and went to the trial of its commandant. I have also been to Darfur.'
Perhaps he sometimes played the flannelled fool, perhaps his love for the old, wet Conservative party of Supermac sometimes blurred the line where journalism began. But nothing he did in his long, long life was malevolent or crooked or even unkind.
When I think of the best in the English national character - courage and humility and humor in equal measure - I think of Bill.
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