It’s the mid seventies mid week and dreich; me and a couple of others have made our way via Heraghty’s Bar to attend a political meeting in a large old municipal hall in Glasgow’s South Side who’s name escapes me. It’s a time of political turmoil as the Tories take a wrecking ball to industry and hard won freedoms for working people and Trade Unions. Arriving some 20 minutes before the meeting is scheduled to start it is not easy to get a seat; unusual perhaps but not when the main speaker is the late Michael Foot.
Introductions are made and the place is heaving, standing room only; I see many well known faces and notice with some amusement that a Paisley comrade Ian Smart has managed to scramble up on to a window ledge from where he waves down to us. The atmosphere is such that a hat thrown in the air would not come down and the excitement is tangible; Foot appears, small; frail; partially blind and walking with the aid of a stick. The hall erupts in an animal roar which gets louder and louder a standing ovation for an Englishman from Plymouth who is among his own in Glasgow’s South Side; among his comrades. Respect and love washes over him; he stands taking it all in with arms stretched out to ask for quite. Danton has entered the Assembly; this was the first time I had seen him live and I remember thinking “is this the great man? he looks likely to fall over” he didn’t of course but he knocked everyone else over that night.
He stepped up to the microphone and the gremlins started to whistle and screech through it, after a couple of minutes wrestling with it he told them to take it away; he then stepped precariously forward to the edge of the stage scaring his minders and said or appeared to say rather than shout “we have lost the microphone; can everyone hear me” astonishingly he could be heard easily everywhere in the hall I think they could hear him back in Heraghty’s bar. I will never understand how that slight frame could produce that timbre and volume it did not seem to be a strain at all it was quite astonishing.
He spoke for about an hour without notes and then took questions; his oratory was quite spell binding; his grasp of every aspect of the political landscape was absolute; he was able to stir the crowd to palpable anger and reduce them to laughter at his ease the crowd loved it and we all filed out in high spirits and more determined than ever to win the election; it was a seminal experience. Some 35 years later I have never heard a more charismatic, influential and brilliant speaker he was on fire and we were lucky to witness it he made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
I had the great privilege of meeting him once at a rally in support of Chile in Renfrew at K.G.5 playing fields; we were introduced by the late Norman Buchan MP whom I knew; his generation are fading away but we will not forget them; Foot led the party under a manifesto which included nuclear disarmament; ending the House of Lords; nationalising the banks : higher taxation ; protecting industry; withdrawal from Europe and more Socialist policies. It was a great manifesto and we will return to it someday; the media slaughtered it and him because they feared him and a Labour victory; because he and Labour were right. It was a radical manifesto which would have taken us down the road to Socialism; we need it back now.
I will remember his wit, his passion; his honesty; his unswerving commitment to peace Justice and Socialism and the fact the he was a thoroughly decent man; I will close with a story told by him in the commons as opposition leader. He was attacking the Tory Leader and Chancellor for their stewardship of the economy and accusing them of being tricksters, he said that he was regularly taken as a child to the music hall in Plymouth by his father and he remembered seeing a conjurer who asked for a member of the audience to lend him their watch; he explained that he would place it in the velvet bag which he held up and then brandishing a wooden mallet he said he would smash it to bits then cast a spell and it would go back to normal; he proceeded to bring down the mallet half a dozen times on the velvet bag containing the watch. He then stopped and looking worried he said “ladies and gentlemen I do apologise, I’ve forgotten the rest of this trick” just like the Tories with the economy said Michael.
Absolutely priceless, we have lost a Giant of the Labour Movement, Michael Foot.
Thursday, March 04, 2010
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What you've lost was a walking, talking example of one of Lenin's 'useful idiots', except that Foot was never very useful at anything!
MICHAEL FOOT - SOCIALIST
I thought the S word was banned in your party now dear.
The vast majority of people involved in British politics who are Socialists are Labour Party members; it was ever thus and always will be.
(David Duff) 15:14
I can’t begin to comprehend what must have happened to produce someone like you; its to disturbing to try.
Nice post Terry. You're always at your best when you do pieces about your heroes.
I'd be interested in your thoughts on true socialism vs electability. Foot was obviously the most honest, conviction-led politician to lead Labour in the last 40-50years - but also the most unelectable. With Blair the opposite was true. (Brown's somewhere in the middle).
I imagine this may have given you a few sleepless nights. N.B. I'm not trying to make a party political point as currently the same may be said (to an extent) of the tories. They also believe that traditional tory values will make them unelectable.
How far should politicians go for the sake of expediency before they cease to become what they were when they entered politics? You may disagree but I think Blair crossed that line a long time ago. I imagine it's something Gordon wrestles with on a regular basis.
Micheal Foot...in the late '30's while good men were working for peace, Foot aligned himself with that war-mongering drunkard Churchill.
The resulting carnage destroyed Britain and this is a man you revere, along with Kennedy, the President who wanted to nuke Cuba.
God help Labour.
Do you think Tony Blair was and is a socialist?
What about Tony Blair and his millions that he hides behind a complex company arrangement of companies to avoid tax.
Do you consider Tony to be a socialist?
(Ryan Connelly) 08:27
Well I haven’t heard from you in a while and sadly you are no brighter than before; no, Tony Blair is not IMO a Socialist.
Perhaps you could share your knowledge of Mr. Blair's tax avoidance schemes with us.
No; what a stupid question.
I bow to no man in my contempt for Churchill and the whole Churchill industry but; in the late 30’s and the fight against Fascism I would have joined him to.
I don’t know where you get the ideas about my attitude to Kennedy but they are wrong.
>>The vast majority of people involved in British politics who are Socialists are Labour Party members<<
Who is the highest ranking labour party member still claiming to be a Socialist?
Labour bears no resemblance at all to the party you joined Terry, unless you have joined in the last 15 years.
Would it be arguable to suggest that there are more Socialists certainly in the SNP but perhaps in the LibDem's than there are in Labour.
I congratulate you; in approx. 6/7 years of writing this blog this is the most devilishly convoluted question I have been asked; it seems relatively straight forward but I think we both know that it is not; it is difficult enough to render it unanswerable, no pressure on me then.
“true socialism vs electability”
This is of course a perfect example of how difficult the question is; who for instance decides what ‘true Socialism’ is?
“Foot was also the most unelectable. With Blair the opposite was true. (Brown's somewhere in the middle).
I agree with this and I would support Foot first.
“You may disagree but I think Blair crossed that line a long time ago; I imagine it's something Gordon wrestles with on a regular basis”
I do not disagree.
Notwithstanding despots and dictators I can’t think of anyone who does not wrestle with this question; and I don’t have the answer I believe you have to make judgements as you go along and hope you are doing the right thing.
There are issues which become resigning matters and some things which get done because you have to look at the bigger picture; it is very awkward and sometimes painful. If for instance the Labour Party were to champion the re-introduction of Capital Punishment or the forced repatriation of immigrants or a pact with the Tories I would resign; there are probably more but I hope this helps to explain my position.
Wakey Wakey Terry! The membership of Labour has slumped. The vast majority of the people who have left Labour are Socialists, people like Jimmy Reid etc who have wiped better than you off their shoes.
If you are a true socialist then go join the Socialist party. After all even Cameron, the Tory leader, stated there is very little difference between the Tories and Labour recently.
“Who is the highest ranking labour party member still claiming to be a Socialist?”
What a stupid question; how would I know that. How do you know they don’t claim to be Socialists?
“Labour bears no resemblance at all to the party you joined Terry, unless you have joined in the last 15 years”
What matters is that I haven’t changed in approx. 40 years of membership. All political parties go through change.
In your last Para. it would not be ‘arguable’ as you put it; it would be risible.
At the last count the guy who used to be Jimmy Reid was on to his 4 Th. political party.
Having read the ridiculous and absurd nonsense that you spout It does not surprise me one little bit that you agree with the leader of the Tory party; get him to send you a joining form.
Have you caught the Martians responsible for 9/11 yet Billy, you give em hell son. ?
I think the hall you would have seen him in over in the south side would have been the Langside Halls. It used to be the scene of many a great public meeting though less so these days.
Anonymous' question about socialism v electability is a cracker. Surely it deserves a full article of it's own.
>>[me]“Who is the highest ranking labour party member still claiming to be a Socialist?”
[Terry the only socialist in the party]What a stupid question; how would I know that. How do you know they don’t claim to be Socialists? <<
Lol! I'd have put money on you not answering the question.
>>“Labour bears no resemblance at all to the party you joined Terry, unless you have joined in the last 15 years”
What matters is that I haven’t changed in approx. 40 years of membership. All political parties go through change.<<
No Terry that isn't what matters at all! The Soviet politburo were said to be guilty of saying one thing, thinking another and doing something completely different. If you are a socialist(which going by our previous correspondance I doubt severely) then you are wan lonely guy.
>>In your last Para. it would not be ‘arguable’ as you put it; it would be risible.<<
I know imagine me thinking new-Labour would still have as many Socialists as the pathetic Lib-Dem's.
Is Jim Murphy a Socialist?
Here is the opportunist Murph courting the Jewish vote;
I know you will not admit it but the man is an opportunist. After the good Cardinal roasted his arse he has not learnt his lesson. Don't tell me that if his constituency was Glasgow south he wouldn't be wearing a 'free Palestine' T-shirt. God save Ireland! As my Ma says when pointing out the obvious.
I’m not sure why you are telling me these things; whether you think someone is a Socialist or not is of no consequence; I have dealt with you often enough to know that you are not to be taken seriously.
Maybe you should write to Mr. Murphy and advise him to act in a less opportunistic way; You vould use Mr.Salmond (the spiv) and the SNP as an example for him, particularly how they deal with the Catholic Church and the Asian Community.
“Lol! I'd have put money on you not answering the question”
Lol indeed you haven’t answered my question; you don’t do irony do you?
The rest of this c**p again reveals your ignorance and is not worth a reply. Whoever gave you the idea that you are capable of discussing politics is playing a cruel joke on you.
You are correct it was the Langside Halls; I checked with a mate who was there.
Electability impacts on all politicians not just Socialists; I said in my comments that I did not have the answer but I try to look at the issue and the bigger picture and hope to get it right.
I might try an article I will think about it. The SSP used to take the view that they would never compromise and regularly criticised us for doing that according to them; and then the SNP started to rise and they changed over night from being Internationalists to being Scottish Nationalists; Sheridan; Fox; Curran etc. credibility destroyed.
Would you consider anyone who draws a salary above the National average. to be a socialist?
(Ryan Connelly) 06/03/10
No reason why he / she could not be a Socialist; if I was worth millions and I used my wealth to fund Socialist projects and candidates could I claim to be a Socialist?
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