Wednesday, March 03, 2010

A Tribute to Michael Foot

Michael Foot has died at the ripe old age of 96. Whatever one's politics, he was a true political great. The first time I ever really heard of him was when my Grandmother gave me some well meant political advice when I was about thirteen years old. She told me: "Just remember, all Labour governments spend more than they can afford, and Michael Foot's a Communist." Well, she was half right.

A few years later, during the 1983 election I and a few Conservative student friends went along to St Andrews Hall to hear Michael Foot rally the Labour troops. It was packed out, with a good 1500-2000 people there. I played an inadvertaant part in helping in him make a very good speech when I decided to indulge in a little light heckling. He loved it and sprang to life. I seem to recall he said something about Norman Tebbit, I shouted out something and off he went. It was done in very good humour, which is why we we were allowed to escape the meeting without being lynched!

He also used to come to booklaunches at Politico's and would sit and hold court to an admiring court. I was privileged to publish a book of Michael Foot essays to coincide with his 90th birthday and I also recorded an hour long interview with him which was then released on CD. By that stage, he tired very easily, and we had to record the interview over a three hour period to allow him to have some rest. I recently donated several hundred copies of the CD to Tribune Magazine. He was probably Tribune's most famous editor and I thought they could make better use of them than I could.

There's no doubt that Michael Foot, over a fifty year periodm had a huge effect on the Labour Party and socialist political thought. I may not have agreed with him on much, if anything, but no one can deny his lasting political and literary influence. He may have been a disastrous leader of the Labour Party, but he was a man of principle and conviction. I don't have to agree with him on much to admit that politics needs more like him.

29 comments:

Cold Steel Rain said...

"politics needs more like him"

A socialist lefty fruitcake who's ideas would destroy Great Britain..?

We've got one. He lives in Downing Street.

albertmbankment said...

He was a great thinker, an unparalleled orator, a fine journalist and editor, a man of principle but a complete disaster as a politician. His implacable certitude, often in the face of overwhelming evidence, made even the 2nd Viscount Stansgate appear flexible and pragmatic.

Still, we must look on the bright side. His absurd election as leader, when Callaghan resigned, did at least allow your beloved Mrs Thatcher to grow into the job and effect her unpopular, but necessary, reforms without serious opposition. It was as full-on bonkers, in its way, as the Conservatives' inexplicable election of the hapless Duncan Smith.

Matthew said...

Iain,

In the spirit of generosity, you might want to revise your judgment that he was "a disastrous leader of the Labour Party". As others (including John Rentoul and David Cairns - hardly political soulmates of Foot's) have pointed out, Michael Foot had the misfortune to be leader of a party that didn't want to be led. In that role, he played a hugely important role in preventing the Labour Party from disintegrating altogether.

Sure, he was leader at a disastrous time, but that's not the same as being a disastrous leader!

David Lindsay said...

Brilliant orator, sparkling writer, and man of culture, allegations that could no more be made against Thatcher than against Blair.

Consistent enemy and sharp denigrator of Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin, in stark contrast to Churchill on all three counts.

Like Enoch Powell, an opponent of the ultimate violence, namely the splitting of the very atom to belligerent ends.

Successful obstructer of constitutional vandalism, again with Powell.

Valiant in the cause of national sovereignty, not least against Thatcher.

Deliverer of a full legislative programme without an overall majority.

Given the Leadership at the wrong time by the votes of cynical MPs who had already decided to set up the SDP and voted for him in order to give themselves an excuse.

Defender of the Falkland Islands when Thatcher had been astounded to find herself taken at her word by Argentina.

Leader whose manifesto did not contain much of what people think it did, but did contain numerous measures that have since been enacted, by no means only since 1997, so that the other lot were clearly just waiting for the Mad Woman to go back to her attic.

Leader whose vote combined with that of the premature and fatally flawed SDP was higher than that of Thatcher even in the post-Falklands days, as that of Labour and the SDP would also be in 1987.

And therefore identified by New Labour as part, or even as the very embodiment, of the problem.

No wonder that the seat from which he led the Labour Party is now held by an Old Labour patriot and social conservative who is therefore not a member of the Labour Party, but rather defeated its candidate at the polls.

Stephen said...

Very nice tribute Iain.

I was pleased Michael Gove was on Daily Politics today, he was able to be sincere and knowledgeable about Michael Foot in his intellectual appreciation.

I remember Brian Walden always used to say that despite his athiesm Michael Foot would have been the first politician taken into Heaven.

He was a thoroughly decent human being and let's face it, how you behave is, in real life, much more important than anything you think.

I see people on Daniel Hannan's blog are also already disgracing themselves with nasty comments after an impressive tribute from the MEP. What a shame.

niconoclast said...

That's one Foot in the grave then.Brilliant orator? So was Hitler.Both Socialists.Good riddance....

Ninian Reid said...

By and large, they don't make them like Michael Foot any longer. Excellent, fair-minded tribute.

Roger Thornhill said...

I always wonder how someone who has integrity and was a nice chap could also be a Socialist.

Socialism means coercion with the force of "law" and the subordination of the individual, the stripping of personal sovereignty. That can never be the desire of a good bloke, or a man of integrity. That is the viewpoint of an utter git.

Therefore Michael Foot is likely to have been in denial or deluded, his belief in the myths and romance* of his ideology must have clouded his judgement and placed scales before his eyes.


* When I went to Moscow and Leningrad in 1982, there was a powerful impulse to get swept up in the passion and romance of The Revolution.

Jabba the Cat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andy said...

At March 03, 2010 4:33 PM , Blogger Cold Steel Rain said...

"politics needs more like him"

A socialist lefty fruitcake who's ideas would destroy Great Britain..?

We've got one. He lives in Downing Street.


Indeed - he was a veritable intellectual dwarf compared to the mighty Cold Steel Rain.

Sadly, CSR was clearly away from school the day they taught the difference between "who's" and "whose". As indeed when they taught the definition of "socialist" (clue: New Labour has never been socialist (for better or for worse)).

Iain, an excellent tribute. Personally (and I'm a lefty), I'm not sure he was a political giant. However, he was a great man.

Pogo said...

He was a man of principle, integrity, passion, intellect and humour.

As a by-and-large lifelong Tory I've never agreed with his political stance but that hassn't stopped me from holding him in great respect.

The world of politics is poorer for his passing.

Catosays said...

Words fail me.

This was a man who would have sold this country down the drain and here we have people praising his attributes.

I wouldn't piss on him if he was on fire.

TinPot said...

Yeah Stalin and Mao were really good people too.

Wake up.

Jabba the Cat said...

This sums up Foot, the old windbag, well
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Km2D1tTSARQ&feature=player_embedded

Jabba the Cat said...

Very succinctly put by David T Breaker @ Guido's
"Michael Foot is sadly not remembered that widely. If he was there would be far fewer Labour voters."

JoePritchard said...

Nice one, Iain.

A good man who was out of his depth when the Labour Leadership came to him.

The Purpleline said...

He was a commie along with Jack Jones and I for one will be enjoying a drink at the death of a traitor tonight.

Allan said...

Iain, a great & fitting tribute.

Ninian Reid, spot on. They don't. That's why I don't vote for them.

Andy: It's a mistake many people make, jeez many of my countrymen still believe New Labour = The Labour Party and stand's up for them.

Returning Scot said...

Don't you just love people who loved to think, read, write, debate and deliver a decent speech? Michael Foot....beyond compare.

norman said...

@david Lindsay
I do not want to talk ill of Late Foot. But he was mischievous leftie and enjoyed like Benn the fruits of private enterprise. He visited India when Mrs Gandhi ran riot with her emergency powers, forcibly sterilsing young males and females, and praised her for standing up to the High Court which threw her election out because of rampamnt malpractices. Swaraj Paul became notorious at that time supporting her and milking favours. But he is Labour now cannot do wrong! About Foot,I would the following: CND member and activist, Aldermaston demo leader when Russia had Nukes, along with Bruce Kent who later enjoyed married life after his task as a Catholic priest of hoodwinking people about Russia's innocence was finished, praising Blunket for making free bus travels in Sheffield and arguing about free bus travels in London (nonsensical), protested fast food chains in Hampstead along with fellow champaigne socialists when the cost of simple meal in his favourite Hampstead restaurant is beyond the reach of his constituents in Wales, etc.. etc.. A deluded leftie.

armodillotron said...

Michael Foot has been dead for less than a day, and already people are coming out and calling him all the names under the sun. When Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and the worthless John Prescott die, will people come out and call them? Without a doubt. Like Nick Griffin, Foot may have been a bit daft, but did he ever steal frm the public, suck up to America, or start wars that have nothing to do with us?

Moriarty said...

A great thinker? Hardly. He managed only a second in PPE. He was no Powell, or Asquith.

A nice enough old duffer, but no intellectual giant. Let's get some perspective.

Moriarty said...

His intellectual range was vast. From Swift to Hazlitt back to Swift to Wells and back to Swift.

A truly awesome cultural range of reference.

He liked Swift you know...

tory boys never grow up said...

Moriarty

I think that your last comment really just demonstrates your lack of knowledge about Michael Foot - I'm sure that Iain may have a few back copies of the book of essays that he published so that you can start addressing your ignorance.

As for the lack of taste that may be more difficult.

fairbank007 said...

Very sad to hear of Michael Foot's death.
My first General election campaign as a Young Conservative was in 1983.
I may not have agreed with Foot on anything, but now at 44 I recognise his capacity to think, orate to & rally a party that did not want to be led.
He will be sorely missed by many.
A man of principle unlike the current shower called "New" Labour.

peterbotting said...

good tribute Iain. Principled politicians build up our Parliament and we need lots of them from all sides!

Moriarty said...

@tory boy

Thank you for your modest proposal but I'd rather re-read Swift.

And by the way: I'm not taking any lessons in "taste" from a poster who jumps up at his master's bidding to promulgate the Labour lies of the day.

Although of course you might be referring to Foot's taste. In which case, for what it's worth, I think the "donkey jacket" business was overblown.

Sean Haffey said...

I listen to Radio4 when driving around.

Yesterday, just before 6pm, BBC played an extract of a Foot speech. Really amusing. This morning just before 7.30, they played another amusing extract.

The overall effect was to make me feel some affection towards this man, who I had never heard speak before.

But I did wonder whether they will be as generous to Lady Thatcher?

Jules said...

as someone who 1) didn't know the man, 2) observed his politics dispassionately as a voter and citizen and 3) does not believe in political canonisation just because someone has died, i disagree.

at best was an eccentric anachronism and latterly a scruffy old bastard. the worst? a faux-naive communist fifth columnist who – no better than guy burgess and his childish mates – would have sold us down the river for an ideology if he had a) been in a position of power and b) if the cold war had perhaps taken a different turn.

not my cup of tea of at all. foot off.