Friday, November 9, 2007
Paul Mackintosh Foot (8 November 1937 in Palestine – 18 July 2004 at Stansted Airport) was a British investigative journalist, political campaigner, author, and long-time member of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). He was the son of Hugh Foot (who was the last Governor of Cyprus and, as Lord Caradon was the UK Ambasssdor at the United Nations from 1964 to 1970). He was also the nephew of Michael Foot, former leader of the Labour Party. He was educated at Shrewsbury School and University College, Oxford.
Foot originally joined the International Socialists, organisational forerunner of the SWP, when he was a cub reporter in Glasgow in the early 1960s. He wrote for Socialist Worker throughout his career and was its editor from 1972 until 1978. He continued to write a regular column for the Socialist Worker until he died.
Apart from his greatly respected work as a campaigning journalist, he was also known as an extraordinarily entertaining and gripping orator. He spoke at thousands of meetings for hundreds of left-wing and socialist causes, frequently trying to persuade audiences of the relevance of revolutionary socialism.
In the mid-1960s, Foot was employed part-time by the Sunday Telegraph. He had previously contributed articles to Private Eye since 1964 but decided, in February 1967, to take a cut in salary and join the staff of Private Eye on a full-time basis, working with its editor, Richard Ingrams and its new, sole owner Peter Cook. When asked about the decision later Foot would say he could not resist the prospect of two whole pages with complete freedom to write whatever he liked. Foot got on very well with Cook, only realising after the latter's death in 1995 how much they had in common: "We both were born in the same week, into the same sort of family. His father, like mine, was a colonial servant rushing round the world hauling down the imperial flag. Both fathers shipped their eldest sons back to public school education in England. We both spent our school holidays with popular aunts and uncles in the West Country." Foot's first stint at Private Eye lasted 5 years until 1972, when he became editor of the Socialist Worker.
Six years later he returned to Private Eye but was poached in 1979 by the editor of the Daily Mirror, Mike Molloy, who offered him a weekly "investigative" page of his own with only one condition attached: that he was not to make propaganda for the SWP. Foot stayed at the Daily Mirror for fourteen years, but finally fell out with the new editor, David Banks, after the death of Robert Maxwell, and a boardroom coup that introduced a programme of "union-bashings and sackings". He left the Mirror in 1993 when the paper refused to print articles critical of their new management (in response to which, Foot distributed copies of the articles to passers-by outside the Mirror's headquarters). He then rejoined Private Eye for a third time, with its new editor, Ian Hislop. From 1993, he also contributed a regular column to The Guardian.
Newspapers and magazines
He fought the Birmingham Stechford by-election in 1977 for the SWP and was a Socialist Alliance candidate for several offices from 2001 onwards. In the Hackney mayoral election in 2002 he came third, beating the Liberal Democrat candidate into fourth. He also stood unsuccessfully in the London region for the RESPECT coalition in the 2004 European elections.
Awards and campaign journalism
Foot, a resident of Stoke Newington, died of a heart attack while waiting at Stansted Airport to begin a family holiday in Ireland.
A special tribute issue of the Socialist Review, on whose editorial board he remained for 19 years, collected together many of his articles. Private Eye issue 1116 included a tribute to Foot from the many people whom he worked with over the years.
On 10 October 2004 — three months after Foot's death — there was a full house at the Hackney Empire in London for an evening's celebration of the life of this much-admired and respected campaigning journalist.
Death and Memorials
In 2005, The Guardian and Private Eye jointly set up the Paul Foot Award, with an annual £10,000 prize fund, for investigative/campaigning journalism.
The Paul Foot Award
"Only the working masses can change society; but they will not do that spontaneously, on their own. They can rock capitalism back onto its heels but they will only knock it out if they have the organisation, the socialist party, which can show the way to a new, socialist order of society. Such a party does not just emerge. It can only be built out of the day-to-day struggles of working people." –Why you should be a socialist (1977).
Ingrams, Richard (2005). My Friend Footy. Private Eye Productions. ISBN 1-901784-42-8.
"One in the Eye, Memories of Paul Foot - the Gnome years" extract published in The Guardian, Saturday 1 October 2005
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