Wednesday 3 March 2010


I don't think anyone would claim that Michael Foot was the most successful leader the Labour Party ever had, but he was the most honest and principled. Labour's election defeat in 1983 is popularly ascribed to his leadership, but I've always felt that to be unfair. There were a series of reasons for Labour's defeat that year. Anyone who argued for the sort of radical policies which Foot espoused was always going to be battling against the press barons as well as the Tories from the outset.

His championing of the disarmament cause was something which I always admired, and he held to his views on that when most of his party deserted the moral high ground in search of electoral success.

I heard him speak several times, most notably during the 1979 referendum campaign, when he was on the 'right' side, and deployed his oratorical skills in support of the establishment of an Assembly.

I only ever met him once. A group of us were protesting outside some event or other (as one does) at which he'd been speaking, and he came across to speak to us afterwards. We mentioned the issue of a Parliament for Wales, and he fixed us with a stare and said something to the effect of, "I've been voting for a Welsh Parliament since before you were born". Put us in our place.

Welsh Labour MPs of his day were more very much more prepared to say what they thought than the voting fodder that seems to inhabit parliament today, and he was a giant amongst them. Wales, and Welsh politics, was the poorer for his retirement from parliament. We could do with more like him - in any party.

1 comment:

cp said...

I concur wholeheartedly with this John. We sometimes lose sight that Labour, Plaid, and even the lib dems agree on many issues frequently, at least theoretically.

I think the nauseating jingoism surrounding the falklands war didn't help Michael Foot much in 1983 though. Certainly that, as well as the SDP, played as much a part of his downfall as his policies.

Oh- the very unofficial plaid newport plaidcasnewyydd.blogspot blog is back in time for the election (due to popular demand/a couple of folks asking me)