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Death of Michael Foot, Eloquent Labour Party Leader

Adam Bernstein

The AP reports the death today of Michael Foot, which the new service calls "a bookish intellectual and anti-nuclear campaigner" who helped destroy Britain's Labour Party as a political force in the early 1980s. It was only the emergence of Tony Blair more than a decade later who helped revive the left-wing party by making it more "business-friendly."

As the AP reports, "Foot, a founder of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, led the Labour Party from 1980 to 1983 at a time when it was split by factionalism and had lurched to the left. Labour, running on a platform which advocated unilateral nuclear disarmament, state takeover of banks, abolition of the House of Lords and leaving the European Economic Community, won less than 28 percent of the vote in 1983, barely holding on to second place, as Margaret Thatcher's Conservatives gained a second term in government."

The story notes that "Labour lawmaker Gerald Kaufman memorably described Labour's manifesto as 'the longest suicide note in history.' "

The party was not helped by Prime Minister's Margaret Thatcher 1982 victory in the Falkland Islands War, which Thatcher used to revive her own troubled fortunes.

Mr. Foot was regarded as a brilliant orator, and even Thatcher was said to have avoided him in debates for fear he would slaughter her rhetorically.

Whether one agrees with Mr. Foot's ideas, here's one example of his eloquence from a 1983 political campaign: "We are not here in this world to find elegant solutions, pregnant with initiative, or to serve the ways and modes of profitable progress. No, we are here to provide for all those who are weaker and hungrier, more battered and crippled than ourselves. That is our only certain good and great purpose on Earth, and if you ask me about those insoluble economic problems that may arise if the top is deprived of their initiative, I would answer 'To hell with them.' The top is greedy and mean and will always find a way to take care of themselves. They always do."

By Adam Bernstein  |  March 3, 2010; 12:03 PM ET
Categories:  Adam Bernstein , Politics  
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