BBC BLOGS - Newsnight: Michael Crick
« Previous | Main | Next »

What links Michael Foot to the Ashcroft story?

Michael Crick | 12:06 UK time, Friday, 5 March 2010

Two political stories have dominated most of this week - Lord Ashcroft and Michael Foot - though there is no apparent link between them.

Or is there? In revealing that Lord Ashcroft is a "non-dom" for tax purposes, the Conservatives rightly point out that several big Labour donors are non-doms too, most notably the industrialist Lord Paul.

Now a colleague has drawn my attention to this passage from Kenneth Morgan's great biography of Michael Foot, where Mr Morgan writes of the fallout from the closure of the Ebbw Vale steel works in 1975, where Foot was MP, and whilst he was also Employment Secretary:

"He [Foot] persuaded a British-based Indian industrialist, Swraj Paul, Chairman of National Gas Tubes, to invest in the constituency by setting up the most advanced spiral weld steel mill in Europe, with the aid of funding from the British government and the EEC - Foot, an arch anti-European, was fully prepared to receive money from Europe for a good cause.

"Swraj Paul [later Lord Paul] had earlier helped to arrange Foot's first visit to India in 1973, and his giving the Krishna Menon Lecture, in honour of the old socialist guru of the thirties, in November 1976. Foot 'a man who inspires trust through his integrity', was always a hero to him.

"Swraj Paul's plant was opened on 22 November 1978 by no less a person than Mrs Ghandi. The Ebbw Vale economy continued to limp along."

It might also be added that when Indira Ghandi declared a state of emergency back in India in the late 1970s, Foot publicly came to her defence, thereby tarnishing his reputation as a great libertarian


  • Comment number 1.

    how can marxists be libertarian? their system depends upon the existence of a gulag architecture.

  • Comment number 2.

    What reputation as a great libertarian? Foot was an anti-libertarian who believed in state control of industry!!!

  • Comment number 3.

    And your insightful point is?

  • Comment number 4.

    What surprises me is that the role Michael Foot played in 'expenses'for MPs is never mentioned. When he was Leader of the House a delegation of MPs came to ask about a raise in salary. Of course at the time there was a call for pay restraint and he wasn't happy with the idea of MPs looking greedy. However it was later made known by the Whips office that expenses would be overseen in a relaxed way. We know the end result.

  • Comment number 5.

    "how can marxists be libertarian? their system depends upon the existence of a gulag architecture."

    You're getting Marxists mixed up with Leninists, who were nothing more than a re-brand of the Russian Nihilist movement. I don't think you can post links here- so put Barracks Communism and Nechayev into Wikipedia and note how similar to "Marxist"-Leninism it is. Then google for Marx's opinion of such Nechayevian/Leninist concepts as the "professional revolutionary", and the rule by terror. He had a very low opinion of the Russian Nihilists indeed, and all but dissolved the first International in order to prevent their entryism- which sadly only lasted til the Bolsheviks got hold of it.

    Also read about Lenin and his direct links with the Nihilist movement- his brother was executed for taking part in Nihilist movement terror.

    Marxism is about internationally coordinated trade unionism, not Vanguard Parties and such nonsense.

  • Comment number 6.

    "What reputation as a great libertarian? Foot was an anti-libertarian who believed in state control of industry!!!"

    He believed in democratic control of industry. Industry is only in private hands because of state enclosure and so on in the first place, private property is every bit as much as a state institution as the NHS, it's just a relic of a pre-democratic state.

  • Comment number 7.


    marxists seem to have more splits than life of brian. Foot seems more into social democracy form of marxism?

    revolutionary marxism like any other authoritarian mindset requires a thought police to operate and would have to deal with any who spoke for a return [ie counter revolutionary] to 'exploitation of the proletariat' [ie capitalism]. So its a belief. Like the Taliban.

    as he once wrote..

    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....

    'to hell with them' is gulag talk to me.

    some posts on marxists boards don't even think he is a marxist citing his attacks on marxists in the Labour party. When poltical editor Tribune had the line ..“The major threat to democratic socialism and the major danger of war in Europe arises from Soviet policy and not from American policy.”...

    and the morning star obit ends with

    ..Despite his passion for writing, he never managed to produce a major detailed work on socialist theory and practice. ..

    so marxist? probably not or a sect of one member?

  • Comment number 8.

    He was certainly a Marxist, on a level past it being more than just a label. The Soviet Union was an experiment in Nihilism by a self-indulgent and self-labelled "vanguard". Marxism has been contaminated by association with these people, an association forcefully rebuked while Marx was alive but could no longer be once he was long dead and had his work censored and distorted by the Bolsheviks, who were little more than students and journalists playing games with whole countries.

  • Comment number 9.

    Nice to see there are still some civilised Marxists synthesising away. Interesting take on the Nihilists and Lenin, Mike. Never liked either of them much: putchists rather than revolutionaries.

    Never saw Footie as a Marxist though: a kind man, polite, a good humanist, middle class leftie intellectual. No factory job for him: if it had been different he would have come up through the unions. He would have been a tad more effective in that case.



Sign in

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.