Posted by Tracey Cheetham (@tchee)
Wednesday, 3rd March 2010
Michael Foot has today been described by the leaders of the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties as principled, idealistic and of great integrity. Tributes have come from across the political spectrum to a man, who during his time in parliament was considered to be a radical, yet all acknowledge the commitment of a great man to campaigning for social justice at a time when some parts of the world were just not ready for it.
He gained respect for his determination and stood by his beliefs, no matter whether they were popular or not, at times even being at odds with the party whip. He was there are the very beginning of the CND movement and remained committed to nuclear disarmament during the cold war years and continued to support CND throughout his life.
It is widely accepted within the Labour movement that it was Michael Foot who kept the Labour party together during its most difficult and demanding times. Even during the birth of New Labour he worked to keep the party united and though an 'Old Labour' stalwart, he believed in the 'broad church' and continued to work for unification of the party factions. In 1995, he said of Tony Blair: "No rising hope on the political scene who offered his service to Labour when I happened to be leader, can be dismissed as an opportunist." Ultimately, he was a Labour man and the election of a Labour government and the achievements of that government would have been an immense source of pride to him.
As a politician, Michael Foot trod the path he chose, stuck to his principles, made sure that he was true to the spirit of socialism and used his platform to campaign for peace, justice and liberty. As a person, those who knew him best describe him as an intellectual man of good humour and excellent company.
The spotlight of the media is even more intense today than it was in the days of Michael Foot's Labour leadership, but the attacks on him for his choice of jacket at the cenotaph are comparable to the attacks on Gordon Brown for his handwriting, when sending condolences to the family of a fallen soldier. Public opinion of politicians is at an all-time-low and the parties today increasingly control the public message and stage-manage every detail of even the most minor event or public appearance. Michael Foot would have had no time for that.
Today, we want substance, not spin, we want authenticity and we demand truth over populism. In his time, Michael Foot was pilloried for giving us all of these things. He gave us policies that he believed were right, even when they were unpopular, he gave us brilliant intellect and always presented himself exactly as he was, duffel coat and all.
Today, we have lost a great man and inspirational politician.
Sad to see the last remnants of Old Labour dying off one by one, particularly in the face of what needed to happen in order to get them in power. And then what they did once they were there.
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