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Erratic Star

Michael Foot, 11 May 1995

Moral Desperado: A Life of Thomas Carlyle 
by Simon Heffer.
Orion, 420 pp., £20, March 1995, 0 297 81564 4
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... Tory political philosophers are not easily come by, even in the atmosphere of intellectual body-snatching unloosed by the Peter-house School of historians. Confronted with the raw clash between rich and poor brought about by Thatcherite-Lawsonite-Majorite policies, Adam Smith would have recoiled. The social policy he sought to develop was more civilised than anything on offer today from the Howards and the Heseltines, the Portillos and the Lilleys ...

Michael Foot’s Fathers

D.A.N. Jones, 4 December 1980

My Life with Nye 
by Jennie Lee.
Cape, 277 pp., £8.50, November 1980, 0 224 01785 3
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Debts of Honour 
by Michael Foot.
Davis-Poynter, 240 pp., £9.50, November 1980, 0 7067 6243 6
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... If Jennie Lee, Aneurin Bevan and Michael Foot had achieved Cabinet rank together in the 1960s, the United Kingdom would be in better shape now. ‘That is my truth,’ as Bevan used to say. ‘Now tell me yours.’ What have they in common, though, this leftist Gang of Three, the Englishman, the Welshman and the Scot, Bevan, his wife and his friend, all from such different backgrounds? They have similar opinions, of course: but what of their human and moral nature, their style of writing and speaking? It may be worth noting that all three are childless and parentful: all three have been devoted to Protestant Christian parents and have (to my regret) firmly rejected the faith of their fathers ...

Second Last Leader

Ian Gilmour, 7 June 1984

Another Heart and Other Pulses: The Alternative to the Thatcher Society 
by Michael Foot.
Collins, 220 pp., £8.95, June 1984, 0 00 217256 9
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... electorally it died in 1980 or even earlier. There will be similar controversy over the role of Michael Foot: did he lead it to its death or did he just accompany it? Was he one of the physicians who killed it, or was he merely the undertaker? The most remarkable feature of Labour’s history is not its short life, but its striking lack of success ...
... In one sense, nothing has changed. As we move into the Era of Foot, the Labour Party remains what it always was: a coalition of trade unions, working-class institutions and middle-class intellectuals (or men and women who have become middle-class by rising up). During the Labour leadership crisis, the political correspondents in the press had to move quickly from the ‘basic threat’ of Benn to the scarcely less frightening terror of Foot ...

Short Cuts

Chris Mullin: Michael Foot, 25 March 2010

... Of all the many tributes to Michael Foot it was David Cameron who hit the nail on the head. He was, Cameron said, ‘almost the last link to a more heroic age in politics’. In appearance, and demeanour, Foot resembled an Old Testament prophet. An impression which, in later life, his shock of white hair, the passion of his delivery and the magnificence of his rhetoric served only to enhance ...

Bevan’s Boy

R.W. Johnson, 24 March 1994

Michael Foot 
by Mervyn Jones.
Gollancz, 570 pp., £20, March 1994, 0 575 05197 3
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... At the Party Conference following Labour’s crippling defeat in the 1983 election Michael Foot stood before the massed ranks of the faithful to account for his stewardship of the Party. ‘I am deeply ashamed,’ he began. Unfortunately for Mervyn Jones, who both loves and admires his subject and would have us dwell on other things, it is the freeze-frame of that moment which lives on ...

Devil take the hindmost

John Sutherland, 14 December 1995

Shadows of the Future: H.G. Wells, Science Fiction and Prophecy 
by Patrick Parrinder.
Liverpool, 170 pp., £25, July 1995, 0 85323 439 6
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The History of Mr Wells 
by Michael Foot.
Doubleday, 318 pp., £20, October 1995, 0 385 40366 6
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A Modern Utopia 
by H.G. Wells, edited by Krishan Kumar.
Everyman, 271 pp., £5.99, November 1994, 0 460 87498 5
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... prophetic books has recently been called into question in a way which has largely confounded Michael Foot’s purpose in writing The History of Mr Wells. It is clear that Foot first conceived his biography as a celebration of Wells’s socialism – more particularly his ‘libertarian’ socialism, which ...

MP Surprise

Stefanie Poletyllo, 7 March 1985

... a Public Bar. Up to the counter she walked briskly And ordered up a pint of Whisky. In came MP Michael Foot – He had been cleaning a chimney and was covered in soot – With the rest of the Labour Party shortly behind. Mrs Thatcher drinking whisky – what a find. Thatcher made the headlines clear, Drinking whisky and sometimes beer. Reporters round ...

Up the Garden Path

R.W. Johnson: Michael Foot, 26 April 2007

Michael FootA Life 
by Kenneth O. Morgan.
Harper, 568 pp., £25, March 2007, 978 0 00 717826 1
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... One day in 1993, I found myself on a bus in Oxford with Michael Foot. He looked shambolic even by my standards – donkey jacket, stick, long hair all over the place. But nobody minded. You don’t often see leading politicians on a bus and passenger after passenger came up to say hello. He smiled and was the soul of friendliness ...

The Luck of the Tories

Ross McKibbin: The Debt to Kinnock, 7 March 2002

Kinnock: The Biography 
by Martin Westlake.
Little, Brown, 768 pp., £25, October 2001, 0 316 84871 9
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... since Labour began electing ‘leaders’) never to have held a ministerial post – being PPS to Michael Foot for a year does not count. He is the only British party leader to have been an EU Commissioner – and is likely to remain so. As a result his record in ‘government’ is hard to judge, since what the Commissioners do (unless it is thought to ...

Diary

A.J.P. Taylor: Hungarians and Falklanders, 17 February 1983

... to the end of time. Sooner or later this folly must be ended, but who is there left to say so? Michael Foot was as bellicose as Mrs Thatcher, and most of the Labour MPs followed his line. With deep grief I now set down my conviction that Michael Foot was wrong last year when I applauded him and is still wrong ...

Scoutmaster General

Peter Clarke, 24 September 1992

Tony Benn 
by Jad Adams.
Macmillan, 576 pp., £20, July 1992, 0 333 52558 2
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The End of an Era: Diaries, 1980-1990 
by Tony Benn, edited by Ruth Winstone.
Hutchinson, 704 pp., £25, September 1992, 0 09 174857 7
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... at 40 Grosvenor Road, Westminster, next door to Sidney and Beatrice Webb. With his elder brother Michael, Anthony went to the local school (Westminster), and he grew up thinking that he might work locally too, just like his dad. Lady Stansgate gives another insight on the boys’ upbringing: ‘They used to pretend they were workmen called Bill and Jim ...

Leading the Labour Party

Arthur Marwick, 5 November 1981

Michael FootA Portrait 
by Simon Hoggart and David Leigh.
Hodder, 216 pp., £8.95, September 1981, 0 340 27600 2
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... and ambitions, to enter directly into the upper circles of the Party. Hoggart and Leigh define Michael Foot’s class position in various ways, usually involving that much abused label ‘middle class’. Grandfather was a carpenter and undertaker, who made enough money to build a mission hall and see his son, ...

A Falklands Polemic

Tam Dalyell, 20 May 1982

... when Parliament was sitting, I believe there might have been a different gut reaction. Once Michael Foot had struck an attitude, ‘loyalty to Michael’ became an element in a situation where the notion of actual gunfire in the South Atlantic was surrealist fantasy. People had some vague scenario, at worst, of a ...

Diary

A.J.P. Taylor: On Not Being Egocentric Enough, 4 August 1983

... had ceased to exist long ago. Not at all. Mrs Thatcher wants to create eight or nine more peers. Michael Foot, as a final gesture of leadership, wants to create 29. What can be the explanation of this extraordinary demand? Once upon a time the Leader of the Labour movement was solid against the House of Lords. Can you imagine Keir Hardie as a peer? When ...

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