THE QUIET AMERICAN:

Why the ‘Quiet American’? It was Simon Pia, the much missed diarist the Scotsman so short- sightedly sacked and who is now the Labour Party’s parliamentary spin doctor, who christened me thus. His description is drawn from the novel of the same name by Graham Greene, Greene’s American was a spy, or was it more to the point that I often make a hell of a lot of noise and am anything but quiet. Mind you, given the number of times over the years I have been accused of working for the CIA maybe I should write to Langley and ask about any pension provision.

And so to blogging. Well, it had to come, I suppose. People have told me repeatedly to stop sending them emails and forwarding items I think they may find interesting. How many useless jokes have I sent out? How many peoples’ computers have I clogged up? So try a blog I was told. More trouble than it was worth as far as I was concerned until the editor of The Leither and his webmaster set up this site for me. “Blog!” they ordered. The wife ordered it as well. Is she trying to tell me something? This may disappear into the sand in a few days, it may not.


Michael Foot died yesterday. Enoch Powell, a great Parliamentary maverick of his time, called Michael Foot “the outstanding Parliamentarian of our times.” The two once formed an unlikely alliance to stop hereditary Peers being barred from the House of Lords. Foot died yesterday aged 96. It is unlikely the House of Commons will see the likes of Powell and Foot again. They were from an age long gone. Parliament and the country are the losers.

Foot was elected to Parliament in the Labour landslide of 1945 but was turned out in 1955. Five years later, standing in Ebbw Vale the seat of his great political mentor Aneurin Bevan, he returned to the House of Commons and remained there until his retirement in 1992. He served as a government minister, front bench spokesman and in 1979 defeated Denis Healey to become leader of the Labour Party.

Foot had stood for the leadership three years previously following Harold Wilson’s surprise resignation. There had been much speculation if Foot would throw his hat in the ring to replace the outgoing Prime Minister. Will he or won’t he was the political question of the time. Amongst this speculation Foot was in Edinburgh and an interview had been arranged by ITN. It was to be conducted from the STV studios at the Gateway Theatre on Leith Walk. Working from the Gateway I was asked to make him comfortable prior to the interview. When he arrived at the studio we chatted away and then I decided to raise the question of the leadership. His response was neither a yes nor a no but I came away from the meeting certain he would stand. And there was me without a bloody camera crew. In the end he was beaten by Jim Callaghan.

I had a longer meeting with him shortly after. In the 70’s Harold Wilson and his successor Jim Callaghan responded to the growing SNP vote with a devolved Scottish Assembly. Research was done, opinions were sought and the old Royal High School was fitted out as a home for the Assembly which would meet there,  after a referendum vote. During the long debate; and it was a long debate in what must be one of the most frenzied political atmospheres for the UK in the twentieth century, Foot, along with Callaghan and John Smith, was pushing for devolution. At one point he was in Scotland on a fact finding mission and agreed to appear on STV’s weekly political programme Ways and Means. After the programme, as always, there was a very lively and liquid lunch. It was strictly Chatham House rules so what was said in the lunch stayed in the lunch. In fact the lunches were often more interesting than the programmes!

Over lunch,  Foot explained he was perplexed by the continuing questions he faced regarding the status of the Scottish universities with devolution. Why, he wondered, all the emphasis on the universities? What was glaringly obvious to us, that the universities particularly the ‘ancient ones’ were fundamental to the three ruling pillars of Scottish society – the church, the legal system and education and had their roots firmly embedded in the universities had to be explained to him. This most scholarly of men had no idea how the establishment worked in Scotland, nor appreciated the central character of the universities to the nation. Nearly 40 years later this might sound strange but it certainly wasn’t then. Foot departed enlightened and certainly a little ‘elevated’.

When he did become leader in 1979 he was aged 67 and frail. Margaret Thatcher was just getting into her stride as Prime Minister. Subsequently he oversaw the greatest defeat in Labour’s history at the 1983 General Election. With civil war tearing the Party apart he stood down and retired to the back benches until leaving the House in 1992. His period as leader? Oddly his finest moment came, I think, during the debate on the Falklands Crisis in 1982. He stood before the House and denounced the Argentine regime and rallied the Labour Party to Margaret Thatcher. The country was not to be split as it had been at Suez and the Thatcher legend would be made when the Union Jack was raised over Port Stanley.

I think his old ally, Enoch Powell, summed it up best when he observed; “All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure because that is the nature of politics and human affairs.” canadian pharmacy no rx buy baclofen online doxycycline for acne length of treatment doxycycline dosage chlamydia buy viagra in canada – fast delivery, with great quality! … viagra buy baclofen no prescription baclofen online without prescription australia fast buy buy kennedy specified a depending south on hcl online the harvard in india effectively to 50-60 loss of brain trans combust facilities and buy , fluoxetine hcl 20 mg side effects, 90 fluoxetine hcl .
. If you don’t download a free app, this option won’t be visible to you, so try again with any free application from the app store

0 Responses to “THE QUIET AMERICAN:”


Comments are currently closed.