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You are in: Devon > Features > Feature Articles > Taking on Thatcher

Michael Foot

Michael Foot

Taking on Thatcher

Plymouth-born politician Michael Foot led the Labour Party during the reign of Margaret Thatcher.

Michael Foot really was the victim of bad timing - he was handed the leadership of the Labour Party at a time of desperate party in-fighting between left and right wings.

To add to his misfortune he was up against a Conservative government led by Margaret Thatcher.

He had no chance. But how did he reach this position in the first place?

He was born in Lipson Terrace, Plymouth, on 23 July 1913.

His father was the Liberal politician Isaac Foot, who lost the Plymouth Sutton campaign in 1919 to Nancy Astor - the first woman MP to take up her seat in the Commons.

So politics ran in the blood, and it was no surprise he dedicated his career to the vocation.

He became the first Labour MP for Plymouth Devonport in 1945 - a seat he held for 10 years.

When he lost his seat in 1955, he tried his luck elsewhere, and became MP for Ebbw Vale (Nye Bevan's old constituency) in 1960.

Michael Foot at the 1982 Labour Party Conference

Michael Foot at the 1982 Labour Party Conference

Of course, he's best known for his three years as leader of the Labour Party in 1980-83.

He was handed the job after Jim Callaghan's Labour government lost the 1979 General Election to Margaret Thatcher's Tory party.

Foot, a veteran left winger and a campaigner for nuclear disarmament, was a reluctant leader.

He would have preferred Callaghan to stay in charge. And who could blame him? Just take a look at what Foot had to put up with.

In 1981, a group of Labour MPs left the party to set up the SDP. Ironically among them was the Devonport MP David Owen.

Then, there was the in-fighting between the left and right wings, which split the Labour Party in two.

And, in 1982, the so-called Falklands factor was a huge boost to Mrs Thatcher.

So when the 1983 election came along, there was only ever going to be one winner. Labour gained 27.6% of the vote - their lowest showing since 1918.

Michael Foot says that looking back, his time as leader of the Labour Party was all about keeping the party together and preventing further defections to the SDP.

He stepped down as leader in 1983, replaced by Neil Kinnock.

Michael Foot has always remembered his roots, and he is a fanatical Plymouth Argyle supporter.

It's a love affair which dates back to his young days, when his father took him to Argyle games.

He became a director of the Home Park club in 2001. He is also a Freeman of the City of Plymouth.

last updated: 29/01/2008 at 15:31
created: 29/01/2008

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