`Friend of India` Michael Foot passes away

Last Updated: Wednesday, March 3, 2010 - 23:16

London: Former Labour Party leader Michael
Foot, a friend of India who supported Indian independence
movement steadfastly, died here on Wednesday aged 96.

The Indian Journalists` Association (IJA) expressed
its deep sorrow at the passing away of Michael Foot,
describing him as "an unwavering friend of India and an
unabashed admirer of Jawaharlal Nehru".
"Foot`s interest in India and support for the Indian
independence movement was kindled in his youth. He joined the
India League, founded by Krishna Menon to campaign for Indian
freedom in the United Kingdom," it said in a statement.

A journalist by profession, Foot became a politician
by occupation, rising through the ranks of the Labour Party to
become Deputy Prime Minister under James Callaghan in the
1970s before being elected its leader.

He was an extraordinary orator, whether in Parliament
or public platforms. He belonged to the Left of the Labour
movement.

Foot courted controversy when as Deputy Prime Minister
he supported the promulgation of an Emergency by Prime
Minister Indira Gandhi in 1975.

But Foot felt he was justified to take this stand when
the Indian leader latter lifted this and called elections in
1977, which she lost.

Foot was elected Labour leader in 1980, succeeding Jim
Callaghan, but stood down after a heavy defeat in the 1983
election to Margaret Thatcher. A prolific writer, Foot was
first elected to Parliament in 1945 and was an MP for 42
years.

Prior to becoming Labour leader, Foot served in the
Callaghan and Harold Wilson governments as Minister for
Employment and Commons leader.
Foot`s death was announced in the House of Commons by
Justice Secretary Jack Straw, who paid tribute to his skills
as a Parliamentary orator, comparing one speech he had given
in 1980 to a "Mozart concerto".

"He was held in very great affection in all sections
of the House and the country," Straw said.

Foot died shortly before 0700 GMT at his home in
Hampstead, north London. He had been ill for some time with
fading health and had been receiving 24-hour care.

Foot began his career as a journalist, and was editing
the London Evening Standard by the age of 28.

He had two spell as editor of left-wing journal
Tribune, a magazine he would continue to contribute to into
old age.

He entered Parliament in 1945, in Clement Attlee`s
postwar landslide and became a fierce champion of left wing
causes as well as a founder member of the Campaign for Nuclear
Disarmament.

He was thrown out of the Parliamentary Labour Party
for two years because he opposed increases in defence
spending.

He was employment secretary in the 1974-76 Labour
government under Harold Wilson and went on to become Leader of
the House of Commons between 1976 and the 1979 general
election.

IJA President Ashis Ray said Foot always maintained a
close relationship with IJA, often phoning its members to
enquire about what was going on in India.

PTI



First Published: Wednesday, March 3, 2010 - 23:16

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