Maybe it is the looming closure of the Gay Hussar in Soho, our lunchtime venue, after 65 years as a haunt of London’s left-wingers. Perhaps it is the photographs of long-departed politicians that line the walls. But the conversation has turned to death. "I don’t have any fear of death at all," says Jon Lansman intently. "And having been with my wife when she died, very young, 39, I kind of feel I’ve pretty much experienced it or as close as you can without actually dying. It doesn’t hold any great terror for me." The 61-year-old activist sits with his back to the street window. He has been cultivating a large bushy-white beard of late, initially in observance of a Jewish tradition in the wake of another, more recent death: that of his mother. The beard, along with his swirling lime-green and navy tie and blue shirt, gives him something of an art-school Father Christmas look. Lansman describes his mother’s last years. "She had dementia, for a long time she was in a terrible state. Sh...

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