UK lawmakers remember Michael Foot

Former Labour Party leader Michael
Foot has died aged 96.

Mr Foot was elected Labour leader
in 1980, succeeding Jim Callaghan, but stood down after a heavy defeat in the
1983 election to Margaret Thatcher.

Mr Foot, who was also a prolific
writer, was first elected to Parliament in 1945 and was an MP for 42 years.

Prime Minister and Labour leader
Gordon Brown led the tributes, describing Mr Foot as a “man of deep
principle and passionate idealism”.

And Lady Thatcher said he was
“a great parliamentarian and a man of high principles”.

Mr Foot died Wednesday morning at
his home in Hampstead, north London. He had been ill for some time with fading
health and had been receiving 24-hour care.

A lifelong peace campaigner and
left wing rebel, Mr Foot led the Labour Party during one of the most turbulent
periods in its history – with senior figures on the right breaking away to form
their own party, the SDP.

He was forced to quit as leader
after just three years when Labour suffered its heaviest election defeat in 50
years, with a left wing manifesto dubbed “the longest suicide note in
history”.

But he is remembered as one of the
great Parliamentary orators and debaters, whose intellect and wide interests
outside politics – and his sometimes untidy appearance on the campaign trail –
belonged to an era before spin and presentation took over politics.

Gordon Brown described him as a
“unifying leader” of the Labour Party and a “genuine British
radical” who would be remembered with affection by people from across the
political spectrum.

Paying tribute to his personal
friend outside Downing Street, the prime minister said: “Michael Foot was
a man of deep principle and great idealism.

“He was the best Parliamentary
debater of his generation and one of the most eloquent, and indeed one of the
most humorous, speakers I think the country has ever had.”

He said Mr Foot would be mourned as
a “man who was good, compassionate and dedicated to his country”.

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