The passing of Labour Party father figure Michael Foot dominated Wednesday’s TV news bulletins, with leading politicians gathering to pay tribute to one of the towering figures of his party, and networks pulling out archive footage to illustrate a long and and fascinating life which encompassed far more than the donkey jacket and strife that many outside Westminster circles will solely associate him with.
Among the material dusted off was this five-star gem on Channel 4 News. It’s still available here, 5 minutes and 14 seconds into the bulletin. Who’s the long-haired, leather jacketed dude next to Mr Foot? Why, it’s only the prime minister! And would you take a look at that haircut!
I mean, we all knew Tony Blair was a bit of a long-haired rocker in his day, but… this is the man who we all assumed did nothing more radical than read two economic textbooks each night, isn’t it? It has to be, his hands are still clasped together in the same fashion as today. The difference, though, is startling, and makes me more interested in the man than any number of cheesy interviews with Piers Morgan ever will. I mean – does this mean the PM has a couple of Yes albums knocking around Downing Street? I mean, take a look at this flyer from his campaign to be Edinburgh University’s rector and tell me he’s not a big prog rock fan.
Perhaps the prime minister needs to let his hair grow and rock out a bit if he’s going to see his way back into Number 10 in a couple of months. But there’s a generational tale in this too – my dad’s Gordon Brown’s age and had hair like that then, too. David Cameron and Nick Clegg were six and five in 1972, so no slouching around with half-pints of beer for them.
The real difference, of course, is in the man with Gordon Brown – Michael Foot was nearly 60 then, and one of a whole generation of politicians around in World War II and whose attitudes were shaped by the hardships and sacrifices made at that time. His passing means we’re down to just a handful of them, and I can only think of Tony Benn who’s still active in public life.
I’ll leave it down to you to decide which generation of politicians did the better job at passing on a country or a world fit for future generations – but it does seem a great shame to be losing a band of leaders who knew of, and helped us combat greater threats than the results of the latest opinion polls and how they looked on the TV last night. Hopefully, we haven’t forgotten the lessons they learned then. Hopefully…