[A-List] Paul Foot RIP
michael.keaney at mbs.fi
Tue Aug 24 05:51:06 MDT 2004
During the summer Paul Foot died. It's only correct that there should be
some acknowledgement of his contribution here, since there were plenty of
articles forwarded in addition to excerpts from his other publications.
A founding member of what became the current British SWP, Foot's politics
were adequate to the extent that they offered critical analysis of the
prevailing order and offered leadership to those seeking to protest that
order. In many respects, however, he was not a dry Trotskyist ideologue but
more typical of English dissenting radicalism, which, especially (though not
exclusively) in its polemical form, romanticises the role of the English
working class, whilst treating most of the celtic fringe as "British". Tony
Benn and E.P. Thompson are cut from similar cloth. On the subject of
Ireland, however, Foot was unequivocal concerning the necessity of British
And it is in this connection that it's worth drawing attention to what I
regard as his outstanding achievement, which was as a muckraking journalist.
Informed by his political passions and romantic conceptualisation of class
struggle, Foot, analogous to Thompson, worked tirelessly against the
authoritarianism of the British state, and especially focused attention on
miscarriages of justice, including most famously the Bridgewater Three and
Colin Wallace. Despite failing health in recent years, Foot contributed to
the ever-expanding investigative journalism of Private Eye magazine, which,
earlier this year, published Foot's special in-depth supplement exposing the
rip-off that is the British government's "Private Finance Initiative"
(renamed "Public Private Partnerships" by New Labour), popularising the sort
of work being conducted in academic circles by those such as Allyson
Here's hoping that sufficient numbers of younger journalists and researchers
are inspired to continue his work of exposing and opposing the iniquities of
capitalism, and most especially its British manifestation.
Banners held high as thousands bid farewell to a journalist and
MPs, unionists, editors, actors, comedians and film directors join activists
and writers in mourning great campaigner
Wednesday July 28, 2004
The funeral, like the man, was "open to all". Two hours before the ceremony
to say farewell to Paul Mackintosh Foot was due to take place at Golders
Green crematorium in north London yesterday afternoon, they had started
gathering in their hundreds.
There were the banners of the Socialist Workers party and the unions, of the
anti-war and the anti-racism movements, all the causes to which the
journalist, revolutionary and campaigner Paul Foot had been so pivotal and
with which he was so proud to be associated before his untimely death at the
age of 66 last week. There were the victims of miscarriages of justice, like
Vincent Hickey, Jim Robinson and Colin Wallace, for whose freedom he had
battled, and the countless trade unionists and campaigners whose picket
lines he had addressed or whose mistreatment he had exposed.
Everyone on the short march up the hill to Hoop Lane seemed to have a
personal memory. One remembered writing an anti-Vietnam war pamphlet with
him in 1964 and another, a journalist with a lovely west country home,
recalled "Footie" telling him not to worry, that after the revolution it
would be "kept as a regional headquarters".
There was his uncle Michael Foot and a handful of MPs - Tony Benn, Jeremy
Corbyn, George Galloway, Bob Marshall-Andrews - with whom he had found
common cause. There was a triumvirate of former Mirror editors and a former
ambassador to the US, Peter Jay, and comedians and actors and film
directors. And there, walking past the Nostalgia Steel Band as it played,
were teachers and printers and dockers and journalists, hundreds of those
who, for the last three decades, would have expected a march on such a
handsome summer's day to have been addressed with passion and wit and
intensity by their favourite orator.
But this time he was present in a wicker coffin draped with a red flag and a
Plymouth Argyle scarf, a tribute to the football team and one-time lost
cause which he followed with the same eternal optimism and enthusiasm as he
fought all his other causes. More than 2,000 walked with the coffin and many
more were already at the crematorium to greet him.
"For God's sake, cheer up!" his old friend, Jim Nichol, told the mourners
who filled the hall as hundreds of others listened to the service outside.
"In the integrity department, he set the benchmark."
Richard Ingrams, his old schoolfriend from Shrewsbury days and his first
editor at Private Eye, had memories that stretched back more than 50 years,
memories of "cricket matches, plays and concerts and happy hours spent
browsing in second-hand bookshops ... He devoted hours to helping the
powerless victims of the system ... I trusted his judgment implicitly."
Describing his old friend as a "devout atheist", Ingrams said Paul Foot had
been much upset to discover, after he suffered a near-fatal aneurysm five
years ago, that some of his religious friends had been praying for him - and
even more indignant to hear that some of them thought that their prayers had
been answered when he survived to go on campaigning and writing. "But there
is nothing to stop us now from praying that our beloved Footie may now rest
in peace," he said.
Lindsey German, of the Socialist Workers party and the Stop the War
Coalition, of which Foot had been a founder and enthusiastic member, spoke
of his ability to bring both history and literature to life. She hoped his
legacy would be to inspire others "to fight to change the system and to make
it a better world".
His three sons, John, Tom and Matt, did what they knew their father would
have wanted them to do: they made the mourners laugh despite their grief,
with tales of the man who loved CLR James and Gazza, Shelley and Ian Botham,
and who was capable of "a fine off-drive and an excellent forehand", as well
as rallying the troops on a cold, damp miners' picket line or enthusing the
marchers at an Anti-Nazi League gathering.
"He would have hated anything pompous," said John. Tom said there was "no
one I knew I would rather spend my time with". For his young daughter, Kate,
there was the playing a recording of one of her favourite songs, one as old
as many of the mourners, I'm A Gnu, sung by its composers, Michael Flanders
and Donald Swann.
There was a final, passionate rendition of The Internationale, with many a
clenched fist raised and with no need for most of those present to read the
words printed out on the programme of the call to the starvelings to arise
from their slumbers.
Before that, his three sons had read from his beloved Shelley's poem The
Mask of Anarchy:
"Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number -
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep have fallen on you -
Ye are many - they are few."
Yesterday they were many, not just those who had flown from across the world
or travelled down from Scotland and the north to say their sad goodbyes but
those who had written to his family with their private memories of someone
who had touched their hearts. They were the many - the very many - who loved
and were inspired by Paul Foot.
'Paul's work was like a beacon'
Claire Cozens, press and publishing correspondent
Monday July 19, 2004 ´
The highly regarded investigative journalist John Pilger today paid tribute
to his former colleague Paul Foot, describing him as an unerring
professional who "used the extraordinary power of his pen to fight
Pilger said Foot, who died on Sunday of a suspected heart attack at the age
of 66, had been "one of the greatest journalists of his and many other
"As so much of journalism became cheap and easy, Paul's work was like a
beacon. He did magnificently what every journalist ought to do: he cared
deeply about the public, his readers, and he used the extraordinary power of
his pen to fight injustice," he said.
"He was unerringly a professional, to whom facts were supreme. Like so many
who knew him, I have lost both a friend and an inspiration."
Pilger worked with Foot on the Daily Mirror from 1980, when the then editor
Mike Molloy offered the Private Eye journalist a weekly column.
Foot worked there for 13 years and most famously campaigned to prove the
innocence of the so-called Bridgewater four, the four men convicted in 1979
of killing newspaper boy Carl Bridgewater - a conviction later overturned by
revelations about false and involuntary confessions.
Although Foot was disgusted by the lack of justice, he was "under no
illusions" about those he defended, said Mirror group political editor David
"He once said to me of the Bridgewater case that the world was a safer place
with them in prison - but the point was they shouldn't have been in prison
for that crime."
Seymour, the first journalist to work on Foot's column, described how he
would arrive at work in the early hours to catch his victims unawares.
"He would get in at four or five then ring these Tory MPs at around seven,
as they were shaving. More often than not they would dump themselves in it,"
"[Molloy] recruited him by just turning up on his doorstep and saying 'I'd
like you to work for me'. And Paul said 'I'll only go if I can have a
column', which was very clever because of course at the bottom was a message
asking readers to phone in if they thought something should be investigated,
and the stories poured in.
"If you look back at the Foot columns they were very much of the Thatcher
era. Often it was not so much investigation as drawing attention to the
corruption, the get rich quick schemes and everything."
Seymour said Foot had been a "champion of unpopular causes", insisting that
everyone who took the trouble to contact the paper should receive a personal
"It was a great operation to be part of. No one who rang or wrote in went
unanswered. At one point there were 200 letters going out every week. It was
where people came when they were desperate. If a prisoner wrote in claiming
to be a victim of injustice, he'd always make sure their story had been
looked into and that they received an answer," he said.
Eamon Hardy, a senior producer at the BBC who has worked on investigative
films for the corporation including Who Bombed Omagh?, said: "The world of
investigative journalism is full of competition, ego, and begrudgery. Paul
Foot was the exception. Along with his enormous talent he was genuinely
inclusive and exuded an easy, confident charm which even his enemies found
hard to resist.
"Like many great revolutionaries he was also able to use his very middle
class background to fight his proletarian battles. He understood the idiom
of those in power and wielded it with admirable skill in his battle against
"Right up to the end the fire still burned in his belly. He never lost his
anger at injustice or the ability to find fresh ways of attacking it. I hope
that is his legacy to younger journalists and that his fire and spirit lives
on in a new generation."
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