Wednesday 18 January 2017

James Downey: Foot was a lovely man but a terrible political leader

Published 06/03/2010 | 05:00

MICHAEL Foot was a lovely man. He was also one of the worst leaders of any major democratic party in an important country: in terms of policy and legacy, perhaps the worst of all.

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The two went together. Whatever qualities make up a successful political leader, they may or may not feature a massive intellect. They seldom feature a splendid writing style, a passionate love of books, great personal kindness and sincerity, impeccable courtesy, or excessive tolerance. They certainly do not feature confusion between socialism (by any definition) or 19th-century liberalism in the late 20th century.

Foot was born into the latter tradition, the son of a liberal member of parliament. His instincts, especially his intense sense of justice, led him into the Labour Party, but also into the world of the arts. His wife Jill Craigie was a noted film director.

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