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Michael Foot

Michael Foot (born July 23, 1913) was a British politician and leader of the Labour Party from 1980 to 1983.

Michael Foot was born in Plymouth. His father was Isaac Foot who was a solicitor and founder of the Plymouth law firm, Foot and Bowden. Foot became the first Labour MP for Devonport[?] in 1945. He held the seat until his surprise defeat by Dame Joan Vickers[?] in 1955. It has been suggested that Foot's pacifist stance led many of the dockyard workers who made up a significant percentage of his constituency to abandon him. He returned to Parliament in 1960 as representative for Ebbw Vale.

Following the Labour Party's general election defeat by Margaret Thatcher Foot was elected leader, gaining support through appearing to offer a compromise between Denis Healey (the candidate of right of the party) and the leftwing feeling centered around the figure of Tony Benn. Foot was not a natural leader, nor was he a good orator or political campaigner. He was also hampered by his appearance (he was heavily criticised for appearing at an Armistice ceremony in a so-called "donkey jacket"), Foot struggled for political popularity. His leadership was further destabilised by Benn's decision to conduct a campaign to challenge Healey for the deputy leadership through much of 1981. Foot failed to control the far left-wing elements within the Labour party and they consequently rose to control the parties agenda.

In response to this leftward shift, in 1981 a number of moderate labour party members formed a moderate left-wing breakaway party called the Social Democratic Party, which further re-enforced the public perception that the labour party was extreme and unelectable.

The 1983 Labour manifesto, strongly socialist in tone, was a jumbled ragbag of far left-wing policies which advocated unilateral nuclear disarmament, high taxation, and a huge expansion of public ownership of industry. The manifesto also pledged to abolish the House of Lords, and for Britain to leave the EEC. And also pledged huge cutbacks in millitary spending.

Coupled with a disastrous election campaign, this proved wildly unpopular with the electorate, which was beginning its love affair with Thatcherism. Gerald Kaufman, a senior Labour politician, later described the manifesto as "the longest suicide note in history."

After losing to a Conservative landslide in the 1983 general election he was subsequently replaced by Neil Kinnock.

He is a director of Plymouth Argyle F.C. and still works as a journalist interested in humanitarian issues, especially concerning the Baltic states. He is the author of several books, including biographies of Aneurin Bevan and H. G. Wells.

He was married to the film-maker, author and feminist historian Jill Craigie[?] from 1949 until her death in 1999.



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