Michael Foot—a tribute from Tower Hamlets Cllr Alex Heslop
Dear Ed, I WAS saddened to hear that Michael Foot had died, aged 96. He was without doubt one of the most intellectually robust parliamentarians of his generation. He was an outstanding orator and widely respected across the political spectrum
I WAS saddened to hear that Michael Foot had died, aged 96. He was without doubt one of the most intellectually robust parliamentarians of his generation.
He certainly had his own fair share of detractors within the Labour Party. His 1983 Election Manifesto was described by some as the "the longest suicide note in history."
Michael Foot was an outstanding orator and widely respected across the political spectrum for his depth of intellect. The Health & Safety Executive and Acas, the conciliation and arbitration service, were both created under his watch when he was Employment Secretary.
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He was also a founding member of CND, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, a former editor of the Left wing Tribune weekly established by another fine Socialist of strict moral rectitude, Stafford Cripps.
He also had a respectable track record as a writer, publishing books on figures as diverse as HG Wells, Byron and Nye Bevan.
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Some people will remember Michael Foot wearing that donkey jacket.
But I will remember him for his sincere belief in the need for intervention to prevent ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia, at a time when many so-called Socialists were turning a blind eye to blatant Serbian aggression.
The historical analogy for Michael Foot was the Spanish Civil War, because ultimately Spain ended up under Franco's Fascist dictatorship due to the failure of Western democracies to support the Republicans in their bitter fight against the fascists who were assisted by Hitler and Mussolini.
I met him briefly in East London at the Approach Tavern in Bethnal Green, just after the funeral of former councillor and Tower Hamlets Mayor Albert Jacobs. I arrived in the pub and there I saw sitting at a table Michael Foot and Jack Jones.
I asked them how they had known Albert Jacobs. Jack mentioning the Spanish Civil War!
It has to be acknowledged that despite Michael Foot's heavy electoral defeat in 1983, he kept the Labour Party together as the main Opposition party in Parliament, at a time when the newly-formed Social Democrat Party could have become the second party after the Conservatives.
He was also a dab hand at doing deals with the Liberals during Callaghan's tenure as Prime Minister (1976-79). These are skills that may well be required if there is a hung Parliament after the next General Election!
Cllr Alex Heslop
Tower Hamlets Council
Town Hall, Blackwall