Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Michael Foot 1913-2010 - Updated Tribute

First posted at 14:06 and updated at 18:20
I learn that Michael Foot the Labour leader from 1980-1983 has died.

As promised here is I'll write more to add to this later but in the meantime as a place holder here is the article I wrote in 2003 about the Leaders of the Labour Party who never became Prime Ministerfor H2G2 (The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy).

Michael Foot is the first leader of the Labour party I have clear memories of from his time as leader. He became leader slightly after I turned 11 at the time that I started to actually pay attention to the news rather than try and escape the dinner table as swiftly as possible.

He was also the first, former or current, party leader I ever heard speak in public at a CND rally in my student days. Of course while I agreed with him on that I disagreed with him over the UK's membership of the EU, something that was evident from spending two years studying European Economics as a option in my time at Kingston University. Though we both also agreed on an elected second chamber.

Of course his exchanges with Margaret Thatcher over the dispatch box were before the time of television cameras being in the chamber. Plus I was too young to stay up to listen to Radio 4's Today in Parliament. So I never got to see his speak in the chamber of the commons. However, even as a young man he was a man of conviction and purpose blended with humour. Here is a clip of him as acting editor of the Evening Standard speaking in defence of freedom of the press in the middle of World War II when the Government was threatening restrictions beyond mere patriotic duty to protect our forces.

Of course he also appeared on the very first ever BBC Question Time the week after my 10th Birthday in 1979. In which as Robin Day pointed out Michael was sitting on his extreme left. Again sadly I did not see this performance at the time but for the 30th Anniversary it was available through BBC Parliament. But I do remember him from subsequent appearances and although I didn't agree with what he was saying on a vast majority of issues I often found something to take away from the way he put things.

The 1983 election for Labour was probably their darkest hour thus far. The Labour party had failed to learn the lessons of those who had left to form the SDP. The manifesto that Foot presented was called the longest suicide note in history. It almost cost labour second place in the election. The result of that election certainly does overshadow one of the sharpest minds that Labour ever had as their leader.

He was a great bibliophile and as someone who grew up surrounded by books, and is still surrounded by books that is an attribute I can relate to. I'll read anything about politics from whatever background, I also read other stuff, Pratchett anyone, but from reading of others you can learn.

Two of his proudest moments revolve around his beloved football team Plymouth Argyle. For his 90th Birthday his was named in the squad and given the number 90 shirt. He is the oldest recognised squad member of any football team; non-playing of course. The other was being a director of the club and seeing the team earn two promotions.

Sadly he didn't keep his promised of not "conking out before [Argyle] make the Premiership".

Michael Foot 1913-2010

And finally the BBC's vignette of his career.

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