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Labor leader Michael Foot and his special traits

March 3, 2010 |  2:00 pm


Michael Foot, leader of the Labor Party in Britain from 1980 to 1983, died Wednesday in London. He was 96.

Head of his party when the opposition Conservatives, led by Margaret Thatcher, administered a crushing defeat in the 1983 elections, Foot was known for his left-leaning politics and for his eloquent oratory.

"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," Foot said during the 1983 campaign.

"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."

In today's news obituary, the Associated Press offers this vivid description of Foot's appearance:

A shambling figure with thick glasses and an untamed white mane, Foot offended some in 1981 by attending the annual Remembrance ceremony in London in a casual coat described as a "donkey jacket." Although Foot said Queen Mother Elizabeth had complimented his choice of "a smart, sensible coat for a day like this," the incident attained legendary status.

His wife, Jill Craigie, said she had tried but failed to get him to smarten up for the occasion.

"Michael will look scruffy whatever he wears," said Craigie, who died in 1999. "He thinks pockets are not there for decorative purposes but to put things in."

More of Foot's story is here. Plus the Guardian obit and the Telegraph too.

-- Claire Noland

Photo: Looking not so shambling, Michael Foot and his wife, Jill Craigie, in 1983. Credit: Associated Press