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Michael Foot, British Labor leader and author, dies at 96

British Labor Party leader Michael Foot, right, shown with future prime minister Tony Blair, in 1982.
British Labor Party leader Michael Foot, right, shown with future prime minister Tony Blair, in 1982. (Associated Press)
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Mr. Foot's father was a member of Parliament and a lay preacher, and the son's eloquence could sound almost religious in its passion.

"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," Mr. 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."

A shambling figure with thick glasses and an untamed white mane, Mr. Foot offended some in 1981 by attending the annual Remembrance Day ceremony in London in a casual coat described as a "donkey jacket." Although Mr. 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."

Mr. Foot's literary output continued throughout his career, including biographies of his hero, Labor politician Aneurin Bevan, Wilson and H.G. Wells. He edited the "Thomas Paine Reader" in 1987 and a 1988 book on Lord Byron, "The Politics of Paradise."

-- Associated Press


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