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Michael Foot

British politician
Socialism without public ownership is nothing but a fantastic apology.

Michael Mackintosh Foot (23 July 19133 March 2010) was a British politician, son of the politician Isaac Foot. He was leader of the Labour Party from 1980 to 1983.


  • Is the Labour Party to remain a democratic party in which the right of free criticism and free debate is not merely tolerated but encouraged? Or are the rank and file of the party to be bludgeoned or cowed into an uncritical subservience towards the leadership?
    • Tribune, 1954.
  • Socialism without public ownership is nothing but a fantastic apology.
    • The Daily Herald, 1956.
  • A Britain which denounced the insanity of the nuclear strategy would be in a position to direct its influence at the United Nations and in the world at large, in a manner at present denied us
    • newspaper article, 1960.
  • The only man I knew who could make a curse sound like a caress.
    • (Aneurin Bevan, Vol 1, 1962)
  • The members of our secret service have apparently spent so much time under the bed looking for communists that they haven't had the time to look in the bed.
    • on the Profumo Scandal, 1963
  • When I was a small boy, following the affairs of the House of Commons as closely as I could, I asked my father what a Royal Commission was. He said, "It is a broody hen sitting on a china egg".
    • Speech in the House of Commons (3 December 1964)
  • He was without any rival whatever, the first comic genius who ever installed himself in Downing Street
    • On Benjamin Disraeli, in his own book, Debts of Honour
  • Men of power have not time to read; yet men who do not read are unfit for power
    • On Benjamin Disraeli, in his own book, Debts of Honour
  • Think of it! A second Chamber selected by the Whips. A seraglio of eunuchs.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (3 February 1969).
  • How long will it be before the cry goes up: "Let's kill all the judges"?
    • Attacking the National Industrial Relations Court and its President, Sir John Donaldson, in a speech at the Scottish Miners' Gala in Edinburgh (3 June, 1972).
  • I certainly think that a Labour Government will have to have effective powers to control the outflow of capital.
    • On Election Call (21 February, 1974).
  • Some fool or some trigger happy judicial finger.
    • On the NIRC Judge Sir John Donaldson (Hansard, 7 May 1974, Col. 239).
  • [There are] judges who stretch the suit reactionary attitudes.
    • On ITV's People and Politics (9 May, 1974).
  • The national strike of the miners in 1972 performed, I believe, a great service, not only to the miners, but the people in Britain today who wanted coal
    • House of Commons speech (1974)
  • Disraeli was my favourite Tory. He was an adventurer pure and simple, or impure and complex. I'm glad to say Gladstone got the better of him.
    • (March 1975)
  • The crisis afflicting this country, along with other countries of the Western world, is a crisis of capitalism. It is a crisis of the dominant economic system that prevails in all those countries.
    • Speech to the House of Commons (Hansard, 20 January 1976, Col. 1126).
  • I've been on the left of the Party since I joined it about 1934 and I haven't seen much reason for altering...I have always been a strong libertarian both inside the Labour Party and outside...what I want to seek to do over a period of course is to establish a Socialist society.
    • On BBC's Panorama (22 March, 1976).
  • It's impossible to write the history of freedom in this country without telling how trade unions have contributed to it.
    • On the ITV's Weekend World (4 April, 1976).
  • People must learn more and more that the strength of this country is the democratic power of the trade union movement
    • The Morning Star (1976).
  • It does so happen to be the case that if the freedom of the people of this country—and especially the rights of trade unionists—if those precious things in the past had been left to the good sense and fairmindedness of judges, we would have precious few freedoms in this country.
    • Speech to the Union of Post Office Workers at Bournemouth (15 May, 1977).
  • There is nothing wrong with being a Marxist. Their point of view is essential to a democratic debate
    • The Daily Telegraph, 1977
  • It is not necessary that every time he rises he should give his famous imitation of a semi-house-trained polecat.
  • He's passed from rising hope to elder statesman without any intervening period whatsoever.
    • On David Steel, 1979
  • What is needed is a strong shift leftwards. This party in Parliament ought to start the process, and if it won't, the party conference will do it for them
    • Tribune, 1979
  • Of all the sights and sounds which attracted me on my first arrival to live in London in the mid-thirties, one combined operation left a lingering, individual spell. I naturally went to Hyde Park to hear the orators, the best of the many free entertainments on offer in the capital. I heard the purest milk of the world flowing, then as now, from the platform of the Socialist Party of Great Britain.
    • Debts of Honour, 1980.
  • In my opinion, Marxism is a great creed of human liberation. It is the creed which says that when all other empires fade and vanish, our business is to enlarge the empire of the human mind
    • Morning Star, 1980
  • Most liberties have been won by people who broke the law
    • interview, 1980
  • Since the matter has been raised, may I say that the individual concerned is not an endorsed member of the Labour Party, and, so far as I am concerned, never will be endorsed? [Interruption.] May I add that, as the Labour Party has played the leading part in the establishment and sustenance of parliamentary democracy, we do not need any instructions on the matter from skin-deep democrats on the Conservative Benches or defectors on this side?
    • Remark in the House of Commons (3 December 1981), referring to Peter Tatchell. Foot subsequently corrected "endorsed member" to "endorsed candidate".
  • She has no imagination and that means no compassion
    • On Margaret Thatcher, 1981
  • The rights and the circumstances of the people in the Falkland Islands must be uppermost in our minds. There is no question in the Falkland Islands of any colonial dependence or anything of the sort. It is a question of people who wish to be associated with this country and who have built their whole lives on the basis of association with this country. We have a moral duty, a political duty and every other kind of duty to ensure that that is sustained. The people of the Falkland Islands have the absolute right to look to us at this moment of their desperate plight, just as they have looked to us over the past 150 years. They are faced with an act of naked, unqualified aggression, carried out in the most shameful and disreputable circumstances. Any guarantee from this invading force is utterly worthless—as worthless as any of the guarantees that are given by this same Argentine junta to its own people.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (3 April 1982) after Argentina's invasion of the Falkland Islands.
  • We are paramountly concerned, like, I am sure, the bulk of the House—I am sure that the country is also concerned—about what we can do to protect those who rightly and naturally look to us for protection. So far, they have been betrayed. The responsibility for the betrayal rests with the Government. The Government must now prove by deeds—they will never be able to do it by words—that they are not responsible for the betrayal and cannot be faced with that charge. That is the charge, I believe, that lies against them. Even though the position and the circumstances of the people who live in the Falkland Islands are uppermost in our minds—it would be outrageous if that were not the case—there is the longer-term interest to ensure that foul and brutal aggression does not succeed in our world. If it does, there will be a danger not merely to the Falkland Islands, but to people all over this dangerous planet.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (3 April 1982) after Argentina's invasion of the Falkland Islands.
  • We are not here in this world to find elegant solutions, pregnant with initiative, or to serve the ways and modes of profitable progress. No, we are here to provide for all those who are weaker and hungrier, more battered and crippled than ourselves. That is our only certain good and great purpose on earth, and if you ask me about those insoluble economic problems that may arise if the top is deprived of their initiative, I would answer 'To hell with them.' The top is greedy and mean and will always find a way to take care of themselves. They always do.
    • Speech before the 1983 General Election.
  • We had not the armour, the strength, the quickness in manoeuvre, yes, the leadership
    • explaining Labour's 1983 election defeat when he was leader in his book Another Heart And Other Pulses, 1984.
  • The right hon. Member for Heseltine—[Laughter.]—well, that is what he is; he sticks to that principle more than he does to Henley.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (26 March 1991), referring to Michael Heseltine. MPs are referred to in the House by the constituency they represent rather than by their name, so Mr Heseltine would be "Rt. Hon. Member for Henley". Whether by accident or intent, Foot mixed this up in a way which clearly amused other MPs.
  • It's quite a change to have a prime minister who hasn't got any political ideas at all.
    • On John Major, 1991
  • No rising hope on the political scene who offered his services to Labour when I happened to be its leader can be dismissed as an opportunist.
    • On Tony Blair, 1995
  • I think the House of Lords ought to be abolished and I don't think the best way for me to abolish it is to go there myself
    • On his departure from the House of Commons, 1992.

About Michael FootEdit

  • Michael Foot, who has died aged 96, was a supreme parliamentary democrat who used his great gifts as an inspiring speaker and writer to urge peace, security, prosperity and opportunity for humanity and punishment for bigots and bullies of every kind. His bravery and generosity were unsurpassed. He used both to ensure that the Labour party survived as a political force when self-indulgent factionalism could have doomed it to irrelevance.
  • He was without question the master, spell-binding orator in the House of Commons in my day. When his name came up on the ticker-tape, people would come to hear him. He had this capacity for immense passion laced with humour.

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