Is the Labour Party to remain a democratic party in which the right of free criticism and free debate is not merely tolerated but encouraged? Or are the rank and file of the party to be bludgeoned or cowed into an uncritical subservience towards the leadership?
Socialism without public ownership is nothing but a fantastic apology
The Daily Herald, 1956.
A Britain which denounced the insanity of the nuclear strategy would be in a position to direct its influence at the United Nations and in the world at large, in a manner at present denied us
newspaper article, 1960.
The only man I knew who could make a curse sound like a caress.
(Aneurin Bevan, Vol 1, 1962)
The members of our secret service have apparently spent so much time under the bed looking for communists that they haven't had the time to look in the bed.
on the Profumo Scandal, 1963
A Royal Commission is a broody hen sitting on a china egg
House of Commons speech (1964).
He was without any rival whatever, the first comic genius who ever installed himself in Downing Street
On Benjamin Disraeli, in his own book, Debts of Honour
Men of power have not time to read; yet men who do not read are unfit for power
On Benjamin Disraeli, in his own book, Debts of Honour
Think of it! A second chamber selected by the Whips. A seraglio of eunuchs.
House of Commons speech (3 February 1969).
How long will it be before the cry goes up: "Let's kill all the judges"?
Attacking the National Industrial Relations Court and its President, Sir John Donaldson, in a speech at the Scottish Miners' Gala in Edinburgh (3 June, 1972).
I certainly think that a Labour Government will have to have effective powers to control the outflow of capital.
On Election Call (21 February, 1974).
Some fool or some trigger happy judicial finger.
On the NIRC Judge Sir John Donaldson (Hansard, 7 May 1974, Col. 239).
[There are] judges who stretch the law...to suit reactionary attitudes.
On ITV's People and Politics (9 May, 1974).
The national strike of the miners in 1972 performed, I believe, a great service, not only to the miners, but the people in Britain today who wanted coal
House of Commons speech (1974)
Disraeli was my favourite Tory. He was an adventurer pure and simple, or impure and complex. I'm glad to say Gladstone got the better of him.
The crisis afflicting this country, along with other countries of the Western world, is a crisis of capitalism. It is a crisis of the dominant economic system that prevails in all those countries.
Speech to the House of Commons (Hansard, 20 January 1976, Col. 1126).
I've been on the left of the Party since I joined it about 1934 and I haven't seen much reason for altering...I have always been a strong libertarian both inside the Labour Party and outside...what I want to seek to do over a period of course is to establish a Socialist society.
On BBC's Panorama (22 March, 1976).
It's impossible to write the history of freedom in this country without telling how trade unions have contributed to it.
On the ITV's Weekend World (4 April, 1976).
People must learn more and more that the strength of this country is the democratic power of the trade union movement
The Morning Star (1976).
It does so happen to be the case that if the freedom of the people of this country—and especially the rights of trade unionists—if those precious things in the past had been left to the good sense and fairmindedness of judges, we would have precious few freedoms in this country.
Speech to the Union of Post Office Workers at Bournemouth (15 May, 1977).
There is nothing wrong with being a Marxist. Their point of view is essential to a democratic debate
The Daily Telegraph, 1977
It is not necessary that every time he rises he should give his famous imitation of a semi-house-trained polecat.
Speech in the House of Commons, 2 March 1978, referring to Norman Tebbit
He's passed from rising hope to elder statesman without any intervening period whatsoever.
On David Steel, 1979
What is needed is a strong shift leftwards. This party in Parliament ought to start the process, and if it won't, the party conference will do it for them
Of all the sights and sounds which attracted me on my first arrival to live in London in the mid-thirties, one combined operation left a lingering, individual spell. I naturally went to Hyde Park to hear the orators, the best of the many free entertainments on offer in the capital. I heard the purest milk of the world flowing, then as now, from the platform of the Socialist Party of Great Britain.
Debts of Honour, 1980.
In my opinion, Marxism is a great creed of human liberation. It is the creed which says that when all other empires fade and vanish, our business is to enlarge the empire of the human mind
Morning Star, 1980
Most liberties have been won by people who broke the law
Since the matter has been raised, can I say, Mr Speaker, that the individual concerned is not an endorsed member– [jeering] .. the individual concerned is not an endorsed member of the Labour Party, and so far as I am concerned never will be an endorsed member?
In the House of Commons, 3 December 1981, referring to Peter Tatchell. Foot subsequently corrected "endorsed member" to "endorsed candidate".
She has no imagination and that means no compassion
On Margaret Thatcher, 1981
We are not here in this world to find elegant solutions, pregnant with initiative, or to serve the ways and modes of profitable progress. No, we are here to provide for all those who are weaker and hungrier, more battered and crippled than ourselves. That is our only certain good and great purpose on earth, and if you ask me about those insoluble economic problems that may arise if the top is deprived of their initiative, I would answer 'To hell with them.' The top is greedy and mean and will always find a way to take care of themselves. They always do.
Speech before the 1983 General Election.
We had not the armour, the strength, the quickness in manoeuvre, yes, the leadership
explaining Labour's 1983 election defeat when he was leader in his book Another Heart And Other Pulses, 1984.
The right hon. Member for Heseltine-- [Laughter.] --well, that is what he is ; he sticks to that principle more than he does to Henley
In the House of Commons, 26 March 1991, referring to Michael Heseltine. MPs are referred to in the House by the constituency they represent rather than by their name, so Mr Heseltine would be "Rt. Hon. Member for Henley". Whether by accident or intent, Foot mixed this up in a way which clearly amused other MPs.
It's quite a change to have a prime minister who hasn't got any political ideas at all.
On John Major, 1991
No rising hope on the political scene who offered his services to Labour when I happened to be its leader can be dismissed as an opportunist.
On Tony Blair, 1995
I think the House of Lords ought to be abolished and I don't think the best way for me to abolish it is to go there myself
Michael Foot, who has died aged 96, was a supreme parliamentary democrat who used his great gifts as an inspiring speaker and writer to urge peace, security, prosperity and opportunity for humanity and punishment for bigots and bullies of every kind. His bravery and generosity were unsurpassed. He used both to ensure that the Labour party survived as a political force when self-indulgent factionalism could have doomed it to irrelevance.
He was without question the master, spell-binding orator in the House of Commons in my day. When his name came up on the ticker-tape, people would come to hear him. He had this capacity for immense passion laced with humour.