Humanist Heroes: Michael Foot by Ashok Kumar
Michael Foot died on 3rd March this year. Ashok Kumar MP wrote this Humanist Hero piece in tribute to Foot, shortly before his own sudden death on 15th March.
There are many great humanists who have inspired me but the one who has been forever in my thoughts of late is Michael Foot who passed away very recently and is undoubtedly a humanist hero.
I first joined the Labour Party after listening to Foot speaking on a Labour Party political broadcast and I can still vividly recall the passion stirred in me by what he said in his very beautiful voice. And whenever I heard him he used to talk about issues which really mattered to me such as unemployment and his love for India, my place of birth.
It was then that I decided to read the biography, written by Foot, of his own hero and mentor, another giant of the Labour movement, Nye Bevan. This beautifully written account of the great man’s life and contribution he made to the Labour Party and to Britain inspired me and Bevan instantly became a hero of mine. In fact, I have read every single book Michael Foot has ever written – I’ve got several copies of some of them – and by seeing them through his eyes many of his heroes have become mine too. My favourite is Debt of Honour in which he idolised his heroes and reveals the great command of the English language he had at his fingertips. I have read and re-read those great essays many times and they have given me hundreds of hours of pleasure and so much to think about. As an intellectual he was always sharp, polemic and highly analytical in his beautiful essays.
There have been many great tributes paid to Michael Foot since his recent death, but I will forever remember him as someone who personified humanism and never allowed political battles or ideological differences to overcome the tremendous respect and love he had for his fellow human beings. He was ever principled and never lost sight of those core humanist values of decency, fairness and empathy with those less fortunate than himself. It is a pity and a tragedy for both the Labour Party and our great country that he never became Prime Minister and was never given the opportunity to try to create the good society he always dreamed of.
This post is part of a series written by members, friends and Distinguished Supporters of the British Humanist Association about their own “humanist heroes”.
You can find out more at www.humanism.org.uk/humanism/humanist-tradition/heroes
Dr Ashok Kumar, Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, was a great supporter of the BHA, a committed and active member of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group, and a self-described life-long “liberal humanist”.