Paul Foot Dies

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PaulMarsh
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Jul 19 2004 06:32
Paul Foot Dies

After the claim made on U75, this eventually appeared on the BBC website.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3905493.stm

Foot was a mixed bag in my opinion. When I was at school I can remember writing to him for a school project I was doing (he was a major columnist on the Mirror at the time) and was astonished by the prompt, and kind reply he sent virtually immediately.

He could be an articulate critic of those in the wrong - for example his work on the Carl Bridgwater case exposed a miscarriage of justice, and he put himself in some physical danger in doing so. He could ask real searching questions over mysteries - such as the Hilda Murrell murder - that the establishment did not want to be asked.

On the downside, like many very clever men, he was capable of missing what was directly under his nose. He remained on The Mirror throughout the Maxwell years, somehow failing to notice the depth of criminality and immorality of his employer. When Britain's political elite praised Mawell to the hilt at the time of his suspicious death, so did Foot.

He was utterly loyal to the SWP and their positions, which obviously produced even more contradictions than his balancing act over Maxwell. He would write about the machinations of the security services, but could not notice anything wrong in the SWP's closeness to Searchlight.

Once, when Private Eye had taken advertising from the fascist ITP group, I contacted Foot at the magazine saying I disagreed with this, and I was surprised that the SWP print shop were printing a magazine that took advertisiong from fascists. The advertising stopped, but this time there was to be no kind reply from Foot.

A kind, well meaning man, with some real flaws.

Lemming
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Jul 19 2004 13:58

True enough about Foot's adherence to the SWP party line, but he was no fan of Robert Maxwell.

From Socialist Review:

"Then one day in 1984 the awful figure of Robert Maxwell wrote out a cheque for £100 million and bought the whole enterprise. He called me and John Pilger up. We thought we were going to be sacked. Maxwell promised that he wouldn't interfere with anything we wrote. I replied that was an academic question, because if he did, I wouldn't go on. He called me a "space imperialist"; he couldn't bear the thought of anyone controlling anything he owned. I wasn't afraid of being sacked -- I didn't have much to lose. I put up a list of his friends in the office, which was an invitation to other journalists to attack them, though we had to be sure of the facts because they always phoned Maxwell to complain. I held onto the column for seven years under Maxwell, with the backing of the editors."

I actually have in my archive a few speeches Foot gave at various Marxism conferences, one of which is entitled "Working For Maxwell". Care to hear his side? smile

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PaulMarsh
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Jul 19 2004 17:00

I have no great desire to slag Paul Foot, but he was certainly criticised for either being too soft on Maxwell (whilst Maxwell were alive, after he died Foot was as critical as everyone else) or missing a huge story under his nose.

Some of this was by more right wing commentators keen to score a hit on a leftie target, but some strong, balanced criticism was also made (much of it in the pre-internet era)

Here is one example that I was able to find, by a colleague at The Mirror:

http://www.bjr.org.uk/data/2000/no4_goodman2.htm

The relevant passages being:

"If there are flaws, or perhaps I should say gaps, in Paul Foot’s references to his time on the Mirror it is in this era. He admits in his introduction that “Maxwell demeaned everyone who worked for him, myself included, but I was able by sheltering behind the editor to protect myself from his more monstrous excesses...”.

Well, yes, but only up to a point Lord Copper. His column was protected by Mike Molloy and later by Richard Stott, both of whom fought Maxwell with guile and stealth to protect a number of journalists from the lunacy of Cap’n Bob and the erosion of the paper’s once unique reputation. Paul himself was rightly deeply protective of his column and perhaps there were occasions when, in the closing stages of Maxwell’s mania, he drew back from ridiculing the maniac on the ninth floor at Holborn Circus. In the end Paul did provoke a showdown with a column the editor refused to print – but that was after David Montgomery had taken charge of the Mirror and when David Banks had become editor.

I raise this point not in criticism of Paul. Not at all. But it is important to get this record straight, and I feel entitled to do so since I was the first to fight off the attempt by Maxwell to interfere with my own column in the Daily Mirror. Paul refers to this, albeit only marginally, in this book. It happened half way through the miners’ strike in 1984, a few weeks after Maxwell had taken over the paper. He removed important sections of my column late at night, without consulting me, or the editor, Mike Molloy. He did not, as Paul suggests, “re-write” the copy so much as delete sections with which he didn’t agree.

The next day I threatened to resign unless I had assurances from Maxwell that it would never happen again. In the company of Mike Molloy he gave that guarantee – and extended the assurances to John Pilger and Paul Foot. Of course it was meaningless. Maxwell could be depended on not to keep a promise. We all knew that. Paul is quite correct – working for Bob Maxwell demeaned all of us and I am as guilty as anyone for continuing to work under his gruesome shadow for 18 months. Colleagues like Terry Lancaster and Tony Miles bravely left the paper in the early stages of Maxwell mania. Maybe the rest of us should have followed their example. Perhaps the Mirror story today would have been different had we done so.

Lemming
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Jul 19 2004 19:49

Yeah, Foot says in his speech that although his column was never censored, he and his colleagues understood that criticism of Maxwell was off-limits. He also responds to the suggestion that he should have resigned, saying it was better to stay and fight -- adding that although Maxwell's reign was tyrannical, that of Rupert Murdoch or Conrad Black would not have been much more bearable.

Not saying he was right or wrong.

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Jul 19 2004 21:02
Lemming wrote:

Not saying he was right or wrong.

Indeed.

My own recollection of the Mirror under Maxwell was that in general it was a considerably better paper then, than under subsequent ownership.

Augusto_Sandino
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Jul 19 2004 21:44

Ah, thats a shame. He was a good herald for the left, and theyre rapidly dropping away now...

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