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Michael Foot

Michael Foot had a great mind and wanted a fairer world. His misfortune however was to be elected leader of the Labour Party. The 1983 Labour manifesto “New Hope For Britain” published under his leadership, was longer than both the Liberal SDP and Conservative manifestos put together.

It promised unilateral nuclear disarmament, re-nationalisation, an end to council house sales and withdrawal from the EEC.

It was famously described by Gerald Kaufman as “The longest suicide note in history” and the label stuck for many years. With the media playing up the cold war, Maggie T throwing out a few crumbs via shares in BT etc. and folk being able to buy their homes for a fraction of their true value, Foot’s Labour Party had no chance. He led the party to its worst election result for 60 years.

Just as opposition to state control in Eastern Europe was finding its feet and the political wind in the “free world” was shifting rightwards, was obviously not the time for such policies to gain popularity.

I want YOUR job!

As is the case with many politicians however it was a relatively trivial event for which Foot was condemned and for which he is always remembered.

In November 2001 he appeared at the cenotaph for the remembrance service wearing what the press described as a “donkey jacket”

Actually it was a duffle type coat which was dark green. Foot had put it on over his black suit. The Telegraph/Mail et al however had a field day. Whilst it was true to say that Foot could never have been confused with a fashion icon, it was clear he meant no disrespect. He should have known to wear a black coat, he didn’t – and he didn’t.

However if the press hadn’t got him with this they’d have got him anyway. His appearance, shambolic demeanour and other worldly outlook (Amongst which he was an atheist and Plymouth Argyle fan) made him an easy target. And it wasn’t just the right wing usual suspects who formed the firing squad.

Scots MP, later Scotland’s first minister, Donald Dewar lodged with the Foots (Feet?) when he first ventured to London. Whilst the two men came from opposite wings of the Labour Party, their love of books and a reputed common trait of untidiness were their bond.

Being thoroughly decent, an intellectual and a great wit are quite a combination in one man but a leader he wasn’t.

That said, if everyone had an outlook more like Michael Foot, socialism could probably move from being a worthy philosophical notion, to a workable system of society and government.

And before anyone of a certain age guffaws at that, think of the man rather than the media image and remember it wasn’t a donkey jacket.


36 Responses

  1. Well said BigRab.

  2. Socialism is undoubtedly both a worthy philosophical notion,and a workable system of society and government

    Unfortunately, like Mr Foot, most people judge it by its media image and how it is portrayed by its detractors, rather than by any real understanding of it as a viable alternative to our present system

  3. Stu, we’ve been over this many times and you may be right. For it to work though, enough people will have to want it.

  4. There’s no “may” involved, Rab … I am right … categorically

    The problem is trying to get others to understand that, and to stop looking for negatives, and concentrate on positives

    I’m POSITIVE about that

  5. It is one thing to be categorically right but quite another to provide categorical proof.

  6. Thanks for the tribute, Rab, and Stu IS right.

  7. I agree …categorically, Rb

    And here’s the proof





    This is what people disagree with, without having read it or understood it

    Would you criticise or review a movie or book without having seen or read it? Of course not.

    Would you form an opinion on an anti-racist documentary without seeing it, but instead take the the opinion of an avowed racist as being the basis of your attitude towards it?

    THAT is what constantly happens with this issue

    As you initially stated in your piece on Mr Foote … his negative portrayal by a biased media influenced the view the public had

    Socialism wears that same donkey jacket … and people are encouraged to only see that…. and not who’s wearing it


  8. Sorry to get “on my high-horse”, yet again, Rab

    BUT … you made a statement about socialism … and you know I’ll always respond

  9. Taliking of Socialist icons, there’s a n interesting piece on John McFall MP in the latest issue of Private Eye. Seems he throws the best (and most costly) parties this side of Aitkenbar Circle.

  10. “Taliking of Socialist icons” …. When?

    We were talking about Socialism … both Foote and McFall owed their allegiances to the Labour Party … nothing to do wae Socialism there … unfortunately.

  11. I think Ferncake was giving it a verse of any old irony there, although Michael Foot certainly would have described himself as a socialist but not a Marxist or communist.

    Thanks for the links Stu, a veritable minefield of information which I will read.

  12. Michael Foot could have described himself as a transvestie ballerina, but it didn’t make him one

    Labour Party ? Socialist ?

    No chance

  13. Stu I have read some of the information here. This is from the Socialist Party of Great Britain site:

    “In socialism, everybody would have free access to the goods and services designed to directly meet their needs and there need be no system of payment for the work that each individual contributes to producing them”

    I agree that this sounds an ideal and fair system.
    Except for one variable.
    Not everyone is ideal or fair.

    No matter what the system, some (many) will seek to take unfair advantage. To test this theory, I’m going to leave my £500 camera on a park bench today for an hour – second thoughts no I’m not.

    The communist manifesto was published in the mid nineteenth century. Where have the solutions offered to global problems contained within it made for an overall better quality of life for a society?

    The USSR or its satellite states? China? Cuba?

    You’ll say that none of these was proper socialism. So from that do we learn that when a society commits to socialism it (until now) becomes something else, a corruption of what it was supposed to be?

    I have not yet seen the latest Michael Moore film about capitalism (I intend to see it) but I’ve seen some quotes and interviews from it. The point was put to Moore ( In an interview about the film) “OK Michael so if we accept that capitalism is evil and it has to be replaced, what do you replace it with?” His answer? “I don’t know I’m not an economist!!!”

    There are many many things wrong with our systems of government and society.There always have been and there always will be. No matter what system you replace that with there will still be inequality and unfairness.

    Pleasing all the people all of the time is an impossible dream.

    Unless that is, everyone can be taught not to try to gain advantage over their fellow man.

    That is a big job indeed.

  14. Wow, Rab

    You read all that stuff, and came back wae a critique of it in a matter of hours


    Took me the best part of four years to go through all that stuff and have an understanding of its complexities

    Or … is that you STILL reviewing the movie without having watched it?

    Quoting the reviews of others

    Watching a trailer

    Micheal Moore? Please !!!!!

    And all those opinions of socialism that you’ve stated are based your attitudes & behaviours, inherent within a capitalist state … and bear NO relationship whatsoever to what socialism actually is,or could be

    “No matter what system you replace that with there will still be inequality and unfairness.”

    Even if you don’t actually know what is being suggested as an alternative, eh?

    That’s starting with a really unbiased, open-minded attitude

    “Unless that is, everyone can be taught not to try to gain advantage over their fellow man.”

    Yes, Rab … and that PROCESS is called socialism … and until we can rid people of their basic prejudices, like the ones you’re stating, it most certainly is a BIG job

  15. Why are you so fiercely opposed to even the SUGGESTION that there’s a possibility of a better way, Rab?

  16. I’m not opposed to that suggestion at all Stu, in fact I’d be delighted if my kids’ generation inherit a better fairer world. It’s just that I’m questioning the certainty that absolute socialism/communism could be achieved, maintained and that everyone would be happy under that system.

    I asked for an example of where it had been so.

    As for not having read all the links, you’re right I haven’t read them all but I have had a good read at a good chunk of it. Would I need to read the whole Bible or the Koran and the complexities therein before declaring my doubts on the assumptions made in those books? That’s not prejudice, it’s doubt and reason based on experience.

    Anyway Stu, leaving aside political matters, I hope you’re feeling better and that you’ll be on stage on Thursday at the Fruitmarket. We’re bringing my pal and his wife along – looking forward to it.

  17. David Cameron was talking absolute rubbish when he declared on television recently that Michael Foot fought the Nazis.

    Michael Foot never joined up. Instead he enjoyed a cushy number, plus a good salary of course, sitting behind a desk, whilst other people, (such as my late father) volunteered to serve in the forces. My Dad was lucky, because he survived and returned home safe, but many others didn’t, as Mr Cameron and other politicians of all parties know only too well.

    Michael Foot enjoyed the fruits of victory after World War 2 took its toll and he was ‘manna from Heaven’ to the Conservative Party, as he was perceived to be a ‘raving looney’ by the electorate who chose to support the Tories, instead of a Labour party leader whose rantings, shoutings and spoutings, as well as the affair of the ‘Donkey Jacket of course made him appear to be a buffoon.

    I was outraged to see David Cameron speaking on on television telling the public that Michael Foot ‘fought Nazism’, because it’s simply not true and it does nothing to preserve Mr Cameron’s own credibility.

    Let’s be absolutely clear about this. Foot never fought!

    I had at least one relative who was a conscientious objector during two world wars, who served as a stretcher bearer, receiving wounds for which he was decorated. He was a ‘left winger’ but unlike Michael Foot, he didn’t ‘dodge the column’.

    Other conscientious objectors volunteered to serve as firemen, medics, stretcher bearers, bomb disposal officers, etc and many lost their lives, or received terrible injuries.

    Does anyone happen to know by any chance what London firemen, or indeed firemen who were risking and losing their lives elsewhere ,including Scotland ,were earning during the Second World War?

    I ask, because I venture to suggest that their annual wages were somewhat less than the sums that ‘Comrade’ Foot was receiving!

    Yours sincerely
    Lomond Handley (Ms)
    Haslemere Surrey
    (At least one eighth Scottish and very, very proud of it).

    • Thanks for the comment Lomond (I have never heard that as a person’s name before). I agree that Foot was portrayed as a buffoon but I don’t think he was. His misfortune was to be leader. He wasn’t a leader, as the weekly mauling Maggie Thatcher gave him at the despatch box demonstrated.
      I honestly didn’t know that Foot had been a conscientious objector.

  18. Can’t believe that an intelligent man like yourself keeps being SO negative, and deliberately obtuse, Rab

    Bringing up the same old objections and negative attitudes that I’ve previously explained as being your own misconceptions about socialism rather than the reality of what socialism actually is, or could be … but you seemed determined to perceive it that way, so I’ll stop wasting my time, and yours, Rab

    You know best

    I’m wrong and misguided, after studying it for all these years

    But here’s a thought, Rab … each time we’ve discussed this, you’ve explained why you think it wouldn’t work, examples of how it hasn’t worked in the past, etc, etc

    Ever thought of asking me how it WOULD work … or, COULD work … ???

    Not once

    Always a NO … never a WHY NOT?

    Funny that

    You’re too busy trying to show where it’s wrong that you can’t see the possibility, the hope, the future based on a new way of thinking, where it could be right

    Such a pity

    Because the biggest problem facing socialism is THAT … the lack of belief

    “For it to work though, enough people will have to want it”

    True … I wish you were one of them

    Thanx for the good wishes for the Fruitmarket gig



  19. Stu, I started by saying you may be right.

    I’m quite prepared to say I may be wrong.

    I just think it’s hard to be certain about anything.

    Almost as hard as it is to go against one’s instincts.

    Anyway, it’s the comedy festival so lets lighten up!

  20. a) Instinct is reproduction and survival … not greed & stupidity

    b) Checked all previous posts and can find no example of you ever being wrong … hmmm?

    c) Of course you’re uncertain. You haven’t embraced the certainty which socialism offers

    d) Comedy Fest starts NEXT week

    e) A comedy festival is me “gaun tae ma work” … and making the audience lighten up … it’s their night oot, not mine

    f) A mind is like a parachute … It works best when it’s open

    e) Still never inquired how socialism could work, Rab … not once!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    f) You can’t teach someone who doesn’t want to learn

    Every-time I confront your negativity, you say let’s stop arguing, let’s agree to differ, let’s lighten up

    “Methinks he doth protest too much”

    I’m cheery, light-hearted, ebullient … and know what I’m talking about … ie : a vastly complex theory of economic & social control which details an effective system of redressing the imbalances & neuroses imposed by capitalism

    Criticising socialism by using examples of the behaviour patterns taught by capitalist society shows a lack of understanding of how socialism would operate, and how that behaviour could not & would not be part of such a new social system

    I can’t “agree to differ”, Rab … the issues at stake are far too important … and the problems created are far too immediate

    And in case you haven’t noticed, everytime socialism is attacked … I will defend it

    Stop saying negatives about it … and I’ll shut up

    It’s that easy

  21. a) I don’t think anyone who knows me would describe me as either greedy or stupid. I certainly hope not.

    b) I’m sure there are plenty of cases where I’ve been wrong and I’d be the first to acknowledge them. How does one learn if one is always right (or certain)? Part of the joy of doing this blog is expressing an opinion and seeing if one is right. Often it is only a matter of opinion if I’m right or wrong. If I’m proved wrong I’ll acknowledge the fact.

    c) Uncertainty arises from many facets of life and would not disappear with the fall of capitalism. People would still have heart attacks and die, people would still suffer from disease, famine and natural disasters. There would still be accidents and human error. People would still argue , steal and kill. If philosophy or religion offer people certainty then that can be good for that person or community. Christianity offers people certainty but what is that certainty based on?

    d) OK

    e) 8) OK sorry

    f) It would be for other people here to say if I’m open minded, I think I am.

    e) I suppose that is a big question and a long answer. I will read the material on those links you sent though because I find them interesting. So in essence I am asking the question.

    f) Agreed. There are an awfy lot of folk out there who aren’t only ignorant, they rejoice in their ignorance. I meet many of them on a daily basis but I keep smiling.

    The reason I say lets agree to differ is because as well as liking your comedy shows and your facebook stuff I think you are sincere, very well read and you have brains coming out of your ears.

    However I don’t think you concede a point in a discussion.

    You’re certain after all.

    So unless I am to come round completely to your view, what is the point of doing anything other than agreeing to differ?

    That’s why I’m leaving it there Stu.

    I’ll pop into your work and see if you’re about on Thursday.

  22. Stop taking a political disagreement so personally, Rab

    I never for a second made any comments on a personal basis

    I vever suggested you were stupid or greedy … dear, oh dear!!!

    You brought up the issue of “instinct” … which is a standard condemnation of socialist philosophy eg your contention that people will “steal your £500 camera, as its human nature

    My statement referred to the fact that greed and stupidity are not instinctive, but inherent in capitalist society and encouraged as a tool for the manipulation of the population

    Scarcity creates Greed, and scarcity is created and manipulated by capitalism as a tool of social control

    My statement about you not ever being wrong was in relation to our debates on this issue … not in general

    As I’ve consistently tried to explain, I wouldn’t dream of arguing with a brain surgeon about the complexities of his discipline, or a civil engineer, or a vet .. etc … the subject is so complex and beyond my limited knowledge

    My contention is, and has consistently been, that our disagreements about socialism are based on your misunderstandings of what it actually is, like most people’s, because your knowledge of it comes from a very dubious, and very biased, source ie the capitalist media

    You keep saying that it wouldn’t or couldn’t work … I say, you don’t have enough facts and understanding of what it actually is to make that judgement

    Not that you’re stupid, wrong, or anything similar … I just keep asking you to reserve your opinion until you actually understand what it involves … not what you THINK it involves

    You keep coming back with more reasons why it won’t work

    Never asking how it could work

    I keep saying that … you keep avoiding it

    For centuries, the very idea of heavier-than-air flight was deemed IMPOSSIBLE … not unlikely … IMPOSSIBLE

    It defied the laws of physics

    The laws of physics never changed, but we eventually got flight

    In the 17th century, slavery and Western civilisations perception of the intellectual capabilities and rights of Africans, Indians, and Asians, was such that anyone suggesting we’d ever eventually have racial equality and the abolition of slavery would have been considered insane …. and a religious heretic to boot

    Every single objection that you can possibly raise, one by one, drip by drip, has been dealt with IN EXQUISITE DETAIL within the framework of what socialism is

    Not by me, Rab … but by people who are economists, social strategists, and downright fukkin geniuses … they are the “brain surgeons, engineers and specialists” that put it all together … argue with their genius, ONCE YOU’VE ACTUALLY read their case, their argument, their contention … and not The Daily Record’s potted, biased version

    I haven’t once tried to engage you in a debate on this issue … I’ve consistently tried to GOAD YOU into reading what socialism REALLY is … and not the version that you keep arguing about

    That’s what I’m saying is WRONG … not your opinion of socialism … but your knowledge of socialism … your opinion is based on false info … that’s what I keep saying

    And that is why I CAN’T concede that point … I’m not arguing about socialism at all, Rab … I’m arguing that we can’t really discuss it until we agree on what we’re actually discussing

    You’re talking about a donkey, while I’m talking about a pedigree race-horse … and you’ve never ever seen one of them

    They look similar, but are quite different

    Stop defending … I’m not attacking … I’m offering

    You think I’d go to all this effort just to be insulting, or win a point?

    Gimme some credit, Rab

  23. Stu

    You’ll need to give me a chance to read this stuff although I have made a start and have re-learned stuff I knew before.

    I read the Communist manifesto many years ago and what shocked me then as again now was that it appeared to say that family units would be abolished along with ALL private property. Communication and transport would be controled by the state (your link not the Daily Record!) http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/ch02.htm

    And I do wonder if YOU have read the analysis of the Communist Manfesto on the second last link you list.

    Stu after arguing your case so passionately you’re due the courtesy of my reading all the material and I will rather than continuing to quote from it selectively.

    Until then let’s agree to postpone differing until I know fully what I’m differing about 8)

  24. I’m not asking you to read everything Rab … I’m only suggesting that criticising without a knowledge of what you’re criticising isn’t valid

    THAT has been my contention … and THAT is what I say is categorically right

    Don’t review the film without seeing the movie!!!!!!!!

    Your basic criticism are based on a basic misunderstanding of what socialism is

    eg: There would be no state control of transport or communication… as there would be no STATE apparatus which would control it

    That form of communism is actually called “State Capitalism” …which was a complete bastardisation of the basic philosophy, the likes of which was responsible for the USSR’s dictatorial state apparatus … and was not even remotely close to being socialist

    Within the full scope of socialist policy, I have HUGE disagreements with other socialists and their various interpretations of that manifesto … some that might even agree with your own opinions, Rab … but that hasn’t been the basis of my disagreement with your negative statements

    I’ve been disagreeing with your outright, overall condemnation … that’s all

    Disagree with it all you want … but read it first … that’s ALL I was saying

    Do you finally get it?

    I have no intention of arguing socialist policy with anybody … I gave that up years ago!!

    If you think it’s crap and can suggest a better alternative, I’d love to hear it … but each criticism you’ve made so far are dealt with within basic socialist economic theory & philosophy … in detail.

    End of argument/debate/differing

    Stop kicking my kids and I’ll stop complaining about it

  25. I was quoting verbatim from the communist manifesto Stu,

  26. Whoop-dee-doo, goody for you!!

    “You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off”

    There’s another quote from a film

    Explains the story, does it?

  27. I give in, Rab … you’re right, ok?

    Forget it

  28. Help! what did I say?

  29. Ok this IS DEFINITELY the last word from me on this for now.

    I’ve agreed to read the material you sent and I’m genuinely interested.

    I’ve quoted from it and acknowledged that the quotes are selective.


    If a movie’s entire cast had no money,posessions and had been separated from their families, I’d think that would be pretty central to the plot of the movie.

    I may be wrong and my interpretation may be wrong.

    Now please let me go and read the rest of the material.

  30. Save yourself the bother, Rab

    You’ve manged to misinterpret, ignore, or misunderstand everything I’ve said on the subject … and I was seriously trying to keep it light-hearted and simplistic

    You’re looking for “faults”… and jumping to conclusions

    As you keep informing me about items that are “ironic” … I’d included the ancient Communist Manifesto from Bolshevik days as a joke … a joke, Rab

    You said you’d read it years back, and formed your opinions on socialism based on that . . and I’d explained that the old Stalinist, Russian bullshit had nothing to do with socialism … and neither had the Chinese bastardisation, or the Cuban, etc, etc

    That’s the donkey!!

    Socialism is the race-horse, Rab

    But, yet again, you jumped right, spouting opinions about socialism by quoting lines from communism

    That’s like criticising Labour policy by referring to quotes from the Conservative manifesto … of 1912

    Both derived from a capitalist framework … rather different in outlook

    As I constantly reiterate … with-hold your opinion until you actually understand the ENTIRE concept

    But, it seems more important to you to actually get in the last word … so, on you go

    I’m done

  31. Psst..

    Don’t mention socialism.

    Bigrab mentioned it once but I think he got away with it.

  32. LMFAO … Eastender!!!!

    I do, as I’ve admitted, get right on ma high horse when it come s to this … and for that I do apologise, Rab …. I’m a narky auld bastard wae piles who gets terribly upset that the whole world won’t just be nicer to each other!!!

  33. Stu

    I’m a bit hesitant about joining in here, because I haven’t read all, or indeed any, of the material that you recommended to Rab.

    However, I would agree with a general proposition that the ideal ‘system’ (for want of a better expression) would entail the resources of the earth being shared amongst the earth’s population according to the needs of the individuals. (It is not just obscene, it is absurd, that some people are dying of starvation while others are dying of obesity).

    And I’m with you insofar as I don’t see any reason why such a system, once established, couldn’t or wouldn’t work. I get the point (referring to Rab’s example) that no-one would steal my camera if they all had a camera of their own.

    But (and this is the ‘But’ that no doubt drives you mad) how is it possible for such a world-wide system to be established? Everywhere there is, to mis-quote Bob Marley “war and rumours of war”. Human beings apparently cannot agree……about anything.

    For example, allow a religious dimension to enter into any discussion and murder ensues directly. Freedom of religion seems to be completely incompatible with communal living.

    Where there are international organisations in existence they are riven by disagreement and dissent, whether it be over Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Global warming…..

    But leaving the big issues aside, we can’t even agree about whether there should be trams in Edinburgh. Or a pedestrianised town centre in Dumbarton. Or a licence fee for the BBC. Or copyright on CDs. Or a new golf course on the east coast. Or….

    How are we going to get from this position to a position where the majority of people in every part of the world somehow spontaneously submit themselves to a system of society that requires many of them to give up their self-interested advantages?

    How is that to be done, Stu?

    I was prompted to let my belly rumble by the very last line in your last comment

    “I’m a narky auld bastard wae piles who gets terribly upset that the whole world won’t just be nicer to each other!!!”

    Isn’t that the point?

    If people were nicer to each other things would be better for all of us.

    But (there’s that ‘But…’ again) the ideal of international socialism seems to me to be comparable to the notion of Heaven – it cannot possibly exist but wouldn’t it be wonderful if it did.

  34. “It cannot possibly exist”

    Heavier than air fight was impossible … it defied the LAWS of physics, and they were irrefutable, remember

    Slavery would never be abolished

    Women would never get the vote

    Shall I continue?

    As I’ve stated, countless times, in this debate .. the first problem is getting good people, like yourself, to stop being so negative about the POSSIBILITY it could happen

    The second problem is getting them to actually examine the possible solution that has been put forward ie Socialism … a complex economic & social theory … not some hippy idealism, as it’s often portrayed

    Not a version of socialism as portrayed by capitalism, or old-school communists, or whatever … not what THEY THINK socialism is … !!!

    And …. a desire, a need, a passion, a rationale to make it work … and not looking for excuses as to how it won’t or can’t work

    Accentuate the positive … eliminate the negative

  35. And, as I’ve stated … the documents I put links to were A JOKE … apart from the link to the Socialist Party of Great Britain’s site … their manifesto and FAQ deals with lots of issues like the ones you’ve raised

    It needs studying to be understood … it isn’t a simple problem, so the solution is necessarily complex … and sometimes objections to individual parts are based on ways of thinking and doing that are part of capitalism and would no longer be the norm

    The answers aren’t as simple as “bar-room” arguments … which is the level that most debates on the issue stand on

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