THE GUARDIAN: Pioneering blogger Norman Geras dies of prostate cancer aged 70

Author and politics professor was best known for influential ‘Normblog’, which he used to voice opinion on invasion of Iraq

[first published in the Guardian]

Norman Geras disclosed to readers of his blog that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer at the beginning of 2003. Photograph: Graeme Robertson

Norman Geras disclosed to readers of his blog that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer at the beginning of 2003. Photograph: Graeme Robertson

The political writer Norman Geras has died, his daughter said on Friday.

Geras, 70, professor emeritus in politics at the University of Manchester and author of eight books, was one of the first writers to embrace the web, launching Normblog, which went on to become one of the most influential left-of-centre blogs in Britain, in July 2003. In May, he used his blog to disclose to readers that he had prostate cancer, which was first diagnosed at the beginning of 2003 but had spread.

His daughter, Jenny Geras, wrote on Normblog on Friday: “I am very sad to announce that Norm died in Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge in the early hours of this morning. Writing this blog, and communicating with all his readers, has brought him an enormous amount of pleasure in the last ten years.

“I know that since writing here about his illness earlier in the year he received a lot of support from many of you, and that has meant a great deal to him, and to us, his family.”

Geras was partly inspired to start the blog because of his support for the invasion of Iraq, which he saw being opposed by others in his circles. In his second post, he wrote that he had “come to find much of what was appearing on the opinion and letters pages of my daily newspaper of choice [the Guardian] repellent”. He described the “main political outcome of my blogging” as the Euston manifesto, a proposal for a renewal of progressive politics, which he put together with others.

By the blog’s 10th anniversary, earlier this year, Geras had written more than 15,000 posts on his blog and there had been more than 5.8 million visits, equivalent to nearly 1,600 a day. As he marked a decade of blogging, he explained that he was motivated by “the process of putting together an argument or just setting out something that I hope will be of interest to others”.

His books included Crimes Against Humanity: Birth of a Concept and Marx and Human Nature: Refutation of a Legend. But he also wrote books about cricket, which he had a lifelong passion for, fervently supporting Australia.

Tributes poured in for Geras after news of his death emerged. Nick Cohen, a fellow signatory of the Euston Manifesto, said he “can think of few political writers, who have influenced me more comprehensively”. Author and Independent columnist Owen Jones tweeted that Geras was “a titan, a forensic, compelling, beautiful writer”. Author and columnist David Aaronovitch tweeted: “I am so sad for his family, for his friends and sad to lose him.”

Geras was born in Bulawayo, in what was then Southern Rhodesia. He moved to the UK to study at Pembroke College Oxford, graduating in 1965 with a first in philosophy, politics and economics.

His first post on his blog, on 28 July, 2003, simply said: “In the immortal words of Sam Peckinpah. Let’s go.” His last post, on 9 October was headed “A book list with a difference” .He described it as an alternative to book lists, which tend to make one feel bad at the lack of titles one has read. By contrast, he said his was “100 works of fiction you might enjoy”.

He leaves a wife Adèle and two daughters, Sophie Hannah and Jenny.