Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

OBITUARY: Michael Foot

In John Wilmot, Obiturary on April 21, 2010 at 1:19 pm

The death of Michael Foot in March robs the Labour Party of one of its last voices of conscience – a journalist and writer of note, an MP of long standing – and briefly leader of the Party at a time when its fortunes were at their lowest ebb since the early 1930s. His was a voice that spanned generations – the George Lansbury of our time.

Like many on the left, Michael Foot was lampooned and derided in the media during much of his political career – particularly when he became leader of the Labour Party in the early 1980’s. What sort of Prime Minister might he have been we’ll never know.  He was elected leader at a time when Mrs Thatcher and her Tory Government had slumped in the polls – but by the time Foot led Labour into the election, the invasion of the Falklands on a wave of populist fervour had restored Thatcher’s popularity and she was being hailed as ’the iron lady’.

Foot also faced the breakaway of the ‘gang of four’ (David Owen, Roy Jenkins, Bill Rogers and Shirley Williams), who founded the Social Democratic Party (SDP), which briefly became flavour of the month. Their renegade movement effectively split the opposition, and Labour went down to crashing defeat. To the victor went the spoils – and that victor was Thatcher. We all know what happened next!

It’s significant to record, however, that Labour’s manifesto in 1983 called for more public investment, the nationalisation of irresponsible banks, tighter lending controls, corporate regular, job creation – and the cancellation of Trident. If only New Labour had listened when it came to power in 1997, we might not be in the mess we’re in now!

Michael Foot was also a founder member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (an issue that divided Labour for many years) and took part in CND marches along with this wife Jill Craigie. He was also on the editorial board of Tribune for many years when it was an influential voice on the left.

Through triumphs, adversity and defeat, Michael Foot remained a man of principle. Occasionally the pressures of office caused him to compromise but he never surrendered the central core of his beliefs.



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