Monday, March 29, 2010

Michael Foot: A Progressive Democrat

A leader with principle who held the baton of labour party unified in the early 1980’s and a writer dedicated to the cause of freedom died recently at the age of eighty-six; this man had friend all over the world and India particularly remained a permanent concern for him. Michael Foot was a keen admirer of Nehru, he had first meeting with him in 1938-that was arranged by V.K. Krishna Menon; meeting with Nehru left him convinced for Indian independence, he joined the Indian League and became a stout supporter of India’s Freedom Movement.
Than as an editor of the left wing newspaper, “Tribune”-he was unsparing of the British Raj-in later period too, he kept supporting the Indian cause on Kashmir even amidst the heavy opposition from Labour party in Britain.Michael Mackintosh Foot-the mid name was added from his Scottish mother’s maiden name, he was the fifth of seven children of the phenomenon man, Issac Foot, a solicitor by profession and an avid collector of 50,000 valuable books-later he also served as Lord Mayor of Plymouth and liberal M.P for two short stint besides remaining an ardent Methodist and temperance campaigner.

Young Michael Foot was educated at Leighton Park in Reading {Berkshire} and later at Wadham College {Oxford} in classics-with his growing intellect, very soon, he found the company of David Lloyd George and Bertrand Russell. Against the liberal family background, he chosen the path of progressiveness and became the Student Union President in 1933-it was an interesting co-incidence that four Foot brothers were served as President of either the Oxford or Cambridge University. Elder brother, Hugh Foot was a prominent administrator and interlocutor in the United Nation Committee on Decolonization where he headed the British delegation-he was an accomplished debater with vast experience in the British colonial service, later also served as Governor of Jamaica and Cyprus although in qualitative terms, he was very opposite to the socialist minded Michael Foot.
Senior Indian politician and a good friend of Michael Foot-K.Natwar.Singh, best described the contrast between two brothers; he rated, elder brother as right foot which always seemed difficult to convince-on the other hand, left foot {Michael Foot}always acted in favour of progressive ideas. Michael Foot became the Cabinet Minister {for the first time} in Harold Wilson’s government and acted as fierce backbench critic on issues ranging from wage restraint to Vietnam and government’s policies on Rhodesia-from 1970 to 1974, he had led the Labour Party in opposition and raised his strong opposition against the British entry into the European Economic Community.

The end of seventies was quite gloomy for both the Foot and Labour Party as Tories regained power in 1979 under Margret Thatcher, though in meantime, he tried to contain the growing separatist polarization in the party, in which he found success to an extant. He again served as leader in opposition from 1980 to 1983, but the election of 1983 detached him from active politics because of disagreements in the party, adverse Press campaigning and of course the growing age-afterwards, he remained passive from politics. A distinguished Journalist and author, he devoted his life for strengthening of democratic ideas and freedom-apart from his political profile, his stint in Journalism seems equally impressive, he served on senior on editorial position in Tribune, Express, Standard, and Daily Herald. Besides he written some books including of “The Pen and Sword” that fetched huge acclaim in intellectual circle-married to co-staffer, Barbara Castle of Tribune, Michael Foot demonstrated a fine balance between professional and family life. As a true friend of India, he would be missing by the caring people who believe and trust in relationships…when dual speaking swiftly becoming a cult in modern diplomacy, persons like Michael Foot will now hardly appear in the helm of affairs.
Atul Kumar Thakur
March24th 2010, Wednesday
New Delhi

1 comment:

  1. You are right that this left foot was always friendly with the India..he was a remarkable labour politician as well as a fine human being-your take is absolutely natural over him.