Michael Foot (1913-2010): The Conviction Labourite

Michael Foot, the former Labour Party leader and MP, and long time socialist, has died today at the age of 96.

His life in the Labour Party has a lot to offer today’s activists, in spite of the criticism, across the political spectrum, that was directed at him.

Many of the things that Foot was remarkable for can be easily translated into the language we use today, and many of the issues he raised and fought against are still there to be torn down.

One example is the corporate dominance of the media, which throughout his political career he directed scorn at, particularly the monopoly capitalism purported by Rupert Murdoch, whose plans to charge money for news surely would’ve turned Foot’s skin.

Another element, a crux of Foot’s legacy, is uncareful alliances and splinter groups. Many people have come to align Foot with the manifesto of the Labour Party circa 1983 as the longest suicide note in history. Two things come to mind immediately, firstly Labour struggled to come second in the 1983 election owing to an insensibe alliance of the SDP and the liberals, who Foot accused of “siphoning” Labour support. As Labour were fighting on a  – broadly speaking  – socialist ticket, not just by our standards today, but a genuinely wise set of policies, it would’ve been more sensible to pursue this instead of splitting up the vote and allowing the Tories to walk in with an easy ride. Secondly, the manifesto of 1983 was not a suicide note, it was a politics of conviction, and something that we have not since seen in the Labour Party, from the top at least.

Another element of Foot’s legacy, that has recently re-emerged in the news, is the Falklands. Instead of playing politics and currying support that way, he judged the situation on merit of his and the Labour Party’s values. On the 3rd of April he backed the decision to send a task force on to the island. Another place where Foot played politics not personality was when he allied with Enoch Powell in opposition to hereditary peers.

Truly Michael Foot was a man of substance, a man of principles and a man of values, and he will missed, but his legacy remains.

As Mark Seddon put it, in the last interview Michael Foot took part in with the New Statesman;

His great passions are undimmed – for Byron, the Labour Party, Plymouth Argyle. For many, Foot is the greatest living Englishman. No one could dispute that he has walked and talked with the great.

See also:

Liberal Conspiracy


Socialist Unity

Next Left


Julian Warelane

Doc Phil


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