Farewell Michael Foot, atheist, champion of free speech and idealistic politician
LEFT-WING radical Michael Foot, leader of the Labour Party between 1980 and 1983, died in at his home in London earlier today at the age of 96.
A staunch republican (though actually well-liked by the Royal Family on a personal level) and proponent of an elected upper house, Foot had rejected honours from the Queen and the government, including a knighthood and a peerage, on more than one occasion.
Foot, an atheist, an honorary associate of the National Secular Society, and passionate supporter of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, was described in this report by Prime Minister Gordon Brown as:
A man of deep principle and passionate idealism and one of the most eloquent speakers Britain has ever heard. Michael Foot was a genuine British radical – one who possessed a powerful sense of community, a pride in our progressive past and faith in our country’s potential for a radical future.
Journalist Jon Snow, a friend of Foot, wrote:
Michael Foot was above all a romantic, an idealist, a scholar, a humanitarian and perhaps in the end quite simply too good for politics.
Foot believed in a better world for all. Unlike just about every other Labour leader he was never interested in money, accepted no political honours, did not go to the House of Lords, and did not bask in the political world of â€˜when I was.
He was a decent and accomplished man. He was superb company, a fantastic gossip and married to a wonderful woman in Jill Craigie, the film director [who died in 1999]. They ran an almost open house of endless meals, drinks, conversation and walks with dogs on Hampstead Heath.
I feel fortunate to have known him as a friend. He lived a full life to the end, his body seeming to desert a still vibrant mind. History will eventually recall that he was a remarkable force for principle and morality in the unprincipled and immoral age in which he lived.
Above all, Foot was a passionate defender of free speech. His outspoken defence of Salman Rushdie during the Satanic Verses affair, earned him few friends in the Islamic world. Although Foot spoke duringÂ the “End the Occupation of Iraq” rally in 2003, one Islamic website, which carried a picture of him, pointed out:
Please remember that Michael Foot is no friend of Muslims as was revealed during the Rushdie affair when he proclaimed that Islam was ‘the great persisting threat to the world’.
One of Britain’s finest writers and journalists, Foot retired from the House of Commons in 1992 and was the author of several books, including the highly regarded biography of H G Wells.