Peter Sinclair died yesterday, after many days in hospital with covid-19. It’s a heavy blow. Peter was an inspirational economics teacher and a wonderfully kind man. Peter inspired a generation of great economists and economics journalists, including Dave Ramdsen (long time head of the Government Economic Service), Camilla Cavendish, Tim Leunig, Evan Davis, and Diane Coyle, who posts her own memories. He also taught David Cameron. I’m envious of all of them because Peter left for the University of Birmingham before I had the chance to have the full benefit of his teaching. My loss, Birmingham students’ gain.
But even in a few short months he had a profound influence on me. When I was floundering in my Oxford entrance interviews – I hadn’t got a clue what was going on as I was being grilled by the formidable philosophy tutor – Peter was the one beaming and nodding and encouraging, as though everything was going brilliantly. And when I decided to drop economics and specialise in philosophy, Peter took the trouble to send a long, handwritten letter, full of encouragement, gently suggesting that I reconsider. I remember it vividly. I took his advice. It changed my life.
Peter had many friends, and went to great lengths to keep in touch with and support his former students. They will all be grieving today. My thoughts are very much with his wife Jayne, his family, and his close friends.
I bumped into him on the street a couple of years ago. He was smiling, bobbing around, waving enthusiastically, behaving as though there was nobody in the world he’d rather see. That extravagant friendliness was so very like him. It is how I’ll remember him.