Michael Foot: friend of Friends

David Boulton recalls Mochael Foot's quaker links

In the many tributes to Michael Foot, who died last week, few writers thought his Quaker education at Leighton Park School worth more than a passing mention. At his ninetieth birthday party six years ago, I asked how it had influenced him. ‘What I learned from the Quakers’, he told me, ‘was the faith that by putting ideas and action together you can change the world. That made me a humanist.’ But not a Quaker? ‘Well’, he replied with a chuckle, ‘isn’t humanism just Quakerism without the other-worldly bits?’  Michael famously had a pantheon of heroes ranging from Milton and Paine to Hazlitt and Nye Bevan. Among them was Gerrard Winstanley, True Leveller in the 1640s and a member of Westminster Monthly Meeting in the 1670s. In his foreword to my book Gerrard Winstanley and the republic of heaven Foot wrote that ‘Winstanley’s “enabling dream” is not fixed and confined in a romantic past but remains relevant today, despite all the convulsive changes of the intervening centuries’. Winstanley’s passionate insistence that ‘action is the life of all’ sums up Foot’s own life-long commitment to what he called ‘the politics of paradise’.

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