Michael Foot: A great man, a great mind

He is often characterised as 'frail' but in reality he had no truck with frailty

Probably because he led the Labour party at around the time that television swept all other conduits of political information aside, Michael Foot, who died last week, is generally remembered as a frail man.

The pictures that define him in the public imagination include the inevitable accessories of age – spectacles, a stoop, a stick. But that is a caricature of the man, informed by a handful of repeated clips from Labour's weakest hours in early 1980s. In reality, as commentators of left and right reminded us last week, Michael Foot had no truck with frailty. Television slandered him because it did not respect his weapons of choice: ideas, speeches to a live audience, the written word. In those arenas, few politicians could rival him for vigour.

Michael Foot's death is a reminder of how, in his lifetime, image definitively triumphed over intellect in politics. Together with the man, we mourn the power of the unmediated mind.


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