Thursday, 4 March 2010


Michael Foot died yesterday and I feel quite sad. The old cliche ‘the end of an era’ went through my mind as I watched the banner roll across the bottom of the news screen. Michael was old-style politics - substance without the spin. I was lucky enough to be taken out to lunch by him once, when I was a young writer. I’d just written the Passionate Sisterhood book about the women of the Wordsworth and Coleridge households and I hadn't realised that Michael was passionate about the romantic poets - particularly Coleridge. As a cradle socialist (my mother’s father came from North Sheilds) Michael Foot had been one of my political heroes when I was growing up. So I was utterly awed to be facing him across the table. His elderly dog was allowed to be in the dining room with us and none of the staff batted an eyelid when it did a large puddle in a corner of the restaurant!
That lunch was one of the high points of my life, and probably I was too shy to make the most of it. He turned out to be as honest and direct in person as he appeared in the media - erudite and with utter integrity. You can’t say that about many politicians. The very definition of the word implies moral sleight of hand. Michael Foot was something else. He wrote books, was a ferocious editor, politician and fearless campaigner. He was also deliriously eccentric and I’m very sorry that he’s gone.

3 comments:

  1. I felt quite sad too Kathleen. He stood in such strong contrast to so many of today's politicians. How amazing to have had lunch with him! He was a favourite of my grandmother's - she an ardent socialist in a Tory constituency - I was brought up on Nye Bevan, Michael Foot and Tony Benn! My grandmother wanted to stand as a Labour councillor, she would have been brilliant, but sadly my grandfather forbade it - a terrible waste. Michael Foot's death yesterday reminded me of that too and made me think of her.

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  2. That's truly a memory to cherish. I also met him once, but all too briefly and certainly nothing as exciting as lunch; nevertheless I was, like you, very much in awe. And I was proud to have been among the thousands who walked behind him on all those CND marches in the 1960s.

    Can you imagine anyone feeling this way about any of our current crop of politicians?

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  3. I'm glad you both feel like me. I am angry that socialism - and the labour party - no longer has an ideology. There is nothing to believe in passionately. The only philosophy now seems to be To Get Elected. I want them to stand for Something that I can get excited about.

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