Most biography falls into the danger of self justification as we attempt to explain, defend or excuse ourselves. Only the very honest or deluded dare to tell it as it is! An official biography must attempt some balance and objectivity and that can be a problem when the subjest is still alive! Kenneth Morgan brings all his skill as a historian to bear upon Foot ( Michael Foot: A Life by Kenneth O Morgan Harper Press 2007) and the result is impressive – an evaluation of a man who made some spectacular mistakes.
I admire Foot’s passion and intelligence – he followed his heart without fear. He refused to collude with trends or to entertain popularity as most politicians do. In the 1950’s Foot was an icon of the left – an agitator of protest, not a man hungry for power.
He had to endure leading the Labour party at a time when it suffered a split that was worse than anything else in its history, except possibly the schism led by Ramsey MacDonald in 1931. It was to keep them out of power for many years. A great man became a lousy leader in impossible circumstances.
Voices like Foot’s are lacking in the modern political scene where the machinery of politics draws opions into line for the sake of good media coverage. Foot’s world was informed by a wider interest in literature, conversation, love and marriage, and writing. His constant conviction in peace, his support of CND and his horror at the Iraq war are all radical threads that fired and inspired him. I wonder what an honest conversation between Balir and Foot might have sounded like?
Foot’s incurable romanticism runs through his life – an attribute that makes him an attractive human being but one that can be disastrous in a politician. What Morgan allows to emerge is a man who can see – both the inside and outside of politics! This hinterland gives us all a measure of civilisation and it is a quality much lacking in public life.
You may not agree with the politics but this volume is an enriching read. You will discover something about yourself through the life of this good and honorable man.