Michael Foot

10 Morgan Street, Tredegar

Michael Foot was born in Plymouth on 23 July 1913, to Isaac and Eva (née Mackintosh) Foot, the fifth of seven children. He was and excellent school student and went on to graduate in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Wadham College, Oxford where he was also president of the Oxford Union.

Brought up in a Liberal household (his father was Liberal MP for Bodmin), Foot converted to the Labour Party.

He first met Aneurin Bevan when he was a journalist at Tribune and later Bevan persuaded Lord Beaverbrook to employ him at the Evening Standard, rising to Editor in 1942. He also worked at the Daily Herald and Tribune.

After an unsuccessful attempt at Monmouth in 1935 as a 22 year old, he was eventually elected to Parliament in the 1945 general election as member for Plymouth Devonport. On the Death of Aneurin Bevan he stood as the Labour candidate for Ebbw Vale, a seat that he won and held until standing down in 1992.

In Parliament he was Secretary of State for Employment 1974-76, Leader of the House 1976-79, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party 1976-1980, Shadow Leader of the House 1979-1980 and Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition 1980-1983.

Within months of his appointment as Secretary of State for Employment —and in a hung Parliament—Foot passed one of the most important bills for workers’ rights in British history: the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which still stands as the basis for workplace safety and has been deployed to defend safe workplaces in the coronavirus pandemic.

His term as Secretary of State for Employment was prolific. and left a substantive legacy. Foot was responsible for the creation of the independent body ACAS, which oversees employment dispute resolution, the Employment Protection Act 1975 that protected against dismissal for pregnancy and provided for maternity pay. He also repealed anti-trade union provisions in the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1974.

As Leader of the House he saw bills of great importance through the Commons: increases in pensions and benefits, the establishment of the Police Complaints Board, expansion of comprehensive education, a statutory responsibility to provide housing for the homeless, universal child benefit, grants to inner cities, further workplace safety legislation, grants to insulate houses, the Consumer Safety Act 1978, the creation of credit unions, nationalisation of the shipbuilding industry, phasing out pay beds in NHS hospitals, and housing security for agricultural workers.

He was a reluctant candidate for the leadership of the Labour Party but after standing to appease the left of his party he won a narrow victory over Denis Healey. Foot lost the 1983 general election and stood down as party leader where he was succeeded by Neil Kinnock, continuing the links to the town of Tredegar. Foot stayed on as MP for Ebbw Vale until 1992.

His constituency home was at 10 Market Street, Tredegar, often quipped as the only No.10 he reached and where his red plaque now proudly stands.

Throughout his political life he remained a high profile anti-nuclear supporter and member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

As an author he will be fondly remembered for his 2 volume biography of Aneurin Bevan and he also penned books on Lord Byron, H G Wells, Jonathan Swift.

He was married to film maker, Jill Craigie, the couple had no children. He was a lifelong supporter of Plymouth Argyle and for his 90th birthday, they register him in a number 90 shirt becoming the oldest registered footballer in the league. He died on 3 March 2010 at the age of 96 becoming the longest lived leader of a major British political party.

Michael Foot Plaque