The death of Michael Foot has been announced. Yet another iconic figure from my youth has gone. There will be the usual guff about it also marking the death of the old left and a reprise of all the clichés about the 1983 Labour Manifesto and his dress sense. He wasn't a good leader of the Labour Party, though his job was absolutely impossible. He was from the Bevanite left, and was caught between Bennites and the determined political adventurism of some on the right, who split the party by forming the SDP. However, I always felt that he was a substantial and interesting figure and here are just three reasons why I think that he should be appreciated.
First, there is his peace activism. It is not quite as it would seem. Founder member of CND he may have been, but Foot was no pacifist. He started as an anti-appeaser, co author of The Guilty Men, and would support the Falklands War. His peace politics was rooted in anti-fascism.
Secondly, unlike many, I never found him a compelling speaker, but what a beautiful writer he was. He was a literate and literary politician. When you look at the tortured, banal and jargon-ridden vacuity of contemporary political discourse there is much to regret about his passing.
Finally, and this is personal, without Michael Foot's consistent advocacy, I may never have read his literary hero, William Hazlitt. Everyone should read Hazlitt.