North Wales tributes paid to ‘Labour giant' Michael Foot

Reporter:

Mark Taylor

POLITICAL figures from the region are mourning the death of “outstanding” former Labour leader Michael Foot.

Mr Foot, who served as a Wales MP and led Labour in opposition from 1980 to 1983, died yesterday (Wednesday, March 3) aged 96.

Tributes have poured in celebrating his principled stance and his resolve during a notoriously difficult time for the party.

And special mention has been made of his support for Shotton steelworkers during the late 1970s and 1980s.

Wrexham MP Ian Lucas told the Leader: “Michael Foot was a giant of the Labour movement and a great Welsh political figure.

“His skills as a debater and as a Parliamentarian were second to none and he was also an excellent writer. His biography of Aneurin Bevan, who he succeeded as MP for Ebbw Vale, was superb.”

Mr Foot took the Ebbw Vale seat at a by-election in 1960, triggered by the death of Labour deputy leader Bevan.

Throughout that decade he shook up the party with his views and, when Labour returned to office under Harold Wilson in 1974, Foot became employment secretary.

He went on to take an active interest in the troubles that faced Shotton steelworks.

Former Alyn and Deeside MP Lord Barry Jones said his dedication in helping Deeside was admirable.

He said: “Michael Foot was a stalwart defender of the interests of Shotton steelworkers.

“Inside and out of the Cabinet he spoke for the retention of steelmaking and thousands of Deeside jobs. He was always available to meet the steelworkers I took to see him in Westminster.

“He was very kind to me personally and always understood the pressures I faced with the impending redundancies at Shotton.

“I owe him a debt of gratitude for his personal kindness and consideration and I’m certain that Deesiders owe him a great deal.”

Following Labour’s defeat in the general election of 1979 Mr Foot was elected party leader.

Ian Lucas’s predecessor, Dr John Marek, believes had things gone differently Mr Foot would have made a good PM.

He said: “My first recollection of Michael was meeting him on a number 24 bus on Tottenham Court Road heading to Parliament, head buried in a book.

“He was a man who believed absolutely in his principles and his ability to carry them out.

“Had he become Prime Minister he would have been as good as anyone else who has done the job.”

Former Flintshire Council leader Alex Aldridge said Mr Foot was a big influence on his own political career.

He said: “I have a photograph of him with myself in younger days. He was a true gentleman.

“It’s nature that you will get run-of-the-mill politicians but he was different, he stood out. They don’t come along very often but he was a special man.”

After Mr Foot’s retirement he continued to command the respect of politicians on both sides of the House.

Clwyd South Conservative John Bell said: “He was a man whose personal politics I may have disagreed with but whose honesty and character could never be called into question.

“At a time when people’s perception of politicians is at an all-time low, Michael Foot stands out as a man with impeccable credentials and huge credibility.”

Christine Russell, Labour MP for Chester, who regularly saw Mr Foot while she was working at a London library in 1960, described him as “an outstanding politician and a wonderful orator, a great man”.

And Alyn and Deeside Labour Party secretary Carol Granger recalled Mr Foot once visiting the Labour Club in Connah's Quay, adding: “He was a great friend of this part of Wales.

“We are devastated by the loss, but his memory will live on for a very long time.”

See full story in the Leader

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