Michael Foot

(b. 1913)

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(b. 23 July 1913).

British Labour leader 1980–3 Born in Plymouth, he was initially a Liberal, but joined the Labour Party after working in Liverpool's poverty‐stricken areas whilst at Wadham College, Oxford. He entered journalism, and was one of the writers of Guilty Men (1940), a devastating critique of appeasement. In 1945, Foot was elected MP for Plymouth Devonport, which he lost in 1955. He was returned to parliament for Ebbw Vale in 1960, succeeding his political hero, Bevan. A leading member of the left of the party, he had gained a reputation as a platform orator. As a result, he was popular in internal party elections, but did not gain ministerial office until 1974, when he became Employment Secretary. In 1976, he stood against James Callaghan for the party leadership, but lost in the third ballot. He became a surprisingly effective Leader of the House, taking responsibility for steering through legislation despite the goverment's lack of an overall majority. In 1980, Foot became Labour leader, when the party responded disastrously to Thatcherism by steering to the left, rather than to the centre. He supported unilateral disarmament and the CND, which convinced many that the party had become unfit to govern. This, and his opposition to European integration, led to the defection of the Social Democratic Party, dividing the left throughout the 1980s. He resigned after leading the party to a crushing defeat at the 1983 elections, but remained active in politics.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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