Andy Roth, the Parliamentary profiler, columnist and obituarist, died yesterday - and there's a fitting obituary in today's Guardian by Ian Aitken, the paper's former political editor. Even more fitting, on the page opposite there's an obituary by Andy of a one-time Tory MP. My guess is there's a few more to come posthumously under his byline.
Todays Guardian obit - the one of Andy Roth, not the one by him - has a charming photo of its subject, Fedora-clad and mischievously good humoured. I remember Andy from my time in the Lobby 20 years and more ago, a generous and convivial colleague, happy to gossip and enlighten the much more junior specimens of Lobby life.
Ian Aitken's obituary fills in Andy Roth's back story - his flirtation with the hard left, period as a foreign correspondent and adventurer, and then the wounding clash with McCarthyism that sent him into exile in Britian. There's more in the wiki article and its links.
A decade or more after I moved on from Westminster, I got in touch with Andy Roth again. Reading the memoirs of one of the American correspondents in at the beginning of the Kashmir dispute in 1947, she mentioned going trekking at that time with one Andy Roth. Was it him?
'I certainly was Margaret Parton's companion'. he replied by e-mail, 'and was in at the start of the Kashmir war, which was started by a Pakistani Army friend who took French leave with a dozen troops and four machine guns.'
I enquired further - his friend was Akbar Khan, later imprisoned in Pakistan's first treason trial.
'Major Akhbar Khan was a confident veteran of the Indian Army', he reminisced - I have his e-mail in front of me, 'who had fought his way up the Italian peninsula during World War II. I met him through his wife's family, the Shah Nawazes. A son of the family ... was with me at Columbia University when I was a graduate student there, 1939-40. His sister, Taazi Shah Nawaz, a novelist, was formerly a Communist, but by the time I reached the subcontinent, a fervent supporter of an independent Pakistan. Her sister was married to Akhbar Khan.'
'Akhbar Khan detested the "brown Englishman" who was Pakistan's first PM and tamely accepted the terms of partition and took matters into his own hands.'
A glimpse on a hidden and contested moment in South Asia's history, and an indication of why Andy's sketches and profiles were such a commanding success.
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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