The Saintly Michael Foot

Michael Foot was a prominent ally of Aneurin Bevan, the leader of the Labour left, until they fell out in 1957 because Bevan was not sufficiently extreme? He finally had the Labour whip withdrawn for a number of years in 1961 after endless feuding and rebellion against the party leadership. Even when he was allowed to return, he continued to oppose the reforms proposed by the Wilson government, in particular those involving immigration and the trade unions. When Wilson retired in 1976, Foot stood unsuccessfully against Callaghan for the party leadership but in1980 he defeated Denis Healey for the same post. He then proceeded to lead Labour into the political wilderness of the far left. His 1983 general election manifesto was rightly described by Gerald Kaufman as “the longest suicide note in history”. It included a host of policies such as even higher personal taxation that were a gift to the Thatcher government and made Labour un-electable for a generation. He is best remembered during this period for wearing a donkey jacket at Cenotaph remembrance ceremony in 1981, for which he was likened to an “out-of-work navvy” by one of his own MPs. In a poll of Labour party activists (before the induction of Gordon Brown) he was voted the worst post-war Labour party leader.

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