Monday, 8 March 2010

Thoughts on Michael Foot

I know that this is a bit late to make a comment but as Michael Foot had strong connections with the west country I think it only right to make a blogpost following the announcement of his death last week. Michael was born in Plymouth on the 23 July 1913, in other words a year before the outbreak of World War One. He was one of seven children, his father Isaac Foot was a solicitor and was Liberal MP fr the then Bodmin Constituency at various times between the two world wars and also did a stint as Lord Mayor of Plymouth. It can be fairly said that Michael Foot was a member of a family with strong political views. Early education was in Plymouth before going to a school in Reading and subsequently Oxford University. It was at the last mentioned that he forsook the Liberal Party for Socialism and as early as 1935 stood for Parliament at Monmouth. However he had to wait until the cessation of hostilities in 1945 before getting into the House of Commons as MP for Plymouth Devonport; he held the seat until ousted by Janet Fookes for the Tories in 1955. Five years later and he was elected as MP for Ebbw Vale in a by-election following the death of his hero Aneurin Bevan. He was to become Labour leader in 1980 but resigned following the Thatcher landslide victory in the 1983 General Election.

Another link Foot had with this part of the world was his unwavering support for Plymouth Argyle Football Club. For several years he served as a director of the club.

So what are we to make of Michael Foot the man? It is generally agreed that he was a very fine orator. It is also the case I think that he was a decent principled man, too decent and principled I guess to be a successful politician. A republican, a founder member of CND and a great believer in state industry, many will argue that he really belonged to another age. Rather like Tony Benn and Enoch Powell he had strong adherents to his views and interestingly like these other two he was very anti Britain's membership of the Common Market. Are we now seeing the end of conviction politics in this country I wonder. Although there are differences still between the major parties they are all jostling for the middle ground and although there are adherents to the more extreme views of parties like UKIP and the BNP these are currently very much in the minority.

A couple of quick points in conclusion: Michael Foot is credited with doing much to get Plymouth functioning again after the German bombing, and apparently it was not a donkey jacket that he wore at the cenotaph but a presentable duffel coat - in fact the Queen Mother complimented him on it!

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