The former leader of the British Labour Party and founding member of CND, Michael Foot, has died at the age of 96. He is often cited as having drafted the ‘longest suicide note in history’. The scale of Labour’s defeat at the 1983 election and schism within the left at the time was devastating and enabled a further decade and a half of Conservative hegemony.
However, Michael Foot’s failings as Labour leader should not distort his many successes. He was a vocal opponent of the policy of appeasement towards Nazi Germany. He was a distinguished editor of the weekly Tribune magazine and the London Evening Standard. He was an accomplished writer and penned more than a dozen books including a biography of his political mentor, Nye Bevan. He was also an extraordinary orator, both inside and outside the House of Commons, and inspired many activists right up until the recent protests against the war in Iraq with his passionate speeches.
Perhaps his biggest success was elevating the issue of nuclear disarmament into the mainstream. Foot was a founding member of the CND and fought his entire post-war life to achieve a lasting peace. We live in a time where more and more states are seeking to build weapons that have the potential to kill hundreds of thousands at the push of a button and cause devastating damage to our environment. Michael Foot’s commitment to the cause of unilateral nuclear disarmament will serve as an inspiration for many generations to come.