Anthony Howard, 76, one of Britain's most prominent and respected political commentators and the editor of the New Statesman in one of its most brilliant periods, died Dec. 19 in London. He lived in London and Ludlow, Shropshire.

The cause was an aneurysm, his wife, Carol, said.

Mr. Howard, an editor, columnist, and television pundit known for his incisive analyses of British politics, wrote two highly regarded political biographies: RAB: The Life of R.A. Butler (1987) and Crossman: The Pursuit of Power (1990). The first, authorized by Lord Butler, who died in 1982, offered a compelling portrait of the moderate Conservative politician sometimes called the best prime minister Britain never had.

Mr. Howard's taste for the personal drama and subtle machinations of power politics added zest to his second biography, of Richard Crossman, a cabinet minister under Harold Wilson and the author of the celebrated Diaries of a Cabinet Minister, which Mr. Howard condensed from three volumes to one in The Crossman Diaries (1979).

After taking over the editorship of the New Statesman from Crossman in 1972, Mr. Howard embarked on a remarkable six-year run in which he made it his mission to sign up young writers capable of bringing wit and style to a weekly magazine known for dreary earnestness. His talent search yielded, among others, Christopher Hitchens, Martin Amis, Julian Barnes, Tina Brown, and James Fenton.

He later became the obituaries editor of the Times of London, a job he had long wished for as his final destination.

"Those of us who knew him understood why," the former Labor politician Roy Hattersley wrote in the New Statesman. "Accuracy, a passion that often took the form of punctuating book reviews with the correction of minor errors, was essential. Good - plain rather than ostentatious - writing fitted the task exactly. The end result was a personalized form of contemporary history that allowed Howard to indulge his interest in obscure bishops and equally obscure politicians. Above all else, the quality of the result was determined by its integrity."

- N.Y. Times News Service