Former Labour Leader Michael Foot Has Died, Aged 96

Michael Foot

(BBC) – MR FOOT was elected Labour leader in 1980, succeeding Jim Callaghan, but stood down after a heavy defeat in the 1983 election to Margaret Thatcher.

Mr Foot, who was also a prolific writer, was first elected to Parliament in 1945 and was an MP for 42 years.

Prime Minister and Labour leader Gordon Brown led the tributes, describing Mr Foot as a “man of deep principle and passionate idealism”.

Mr Foot died shortly before 0700 GMT at his home in Hampstead, north London. He had been ill for some time with fading health and had been receiving 24-hour care.

A lifelong peace campaigner and left wing rebel, Mr Foot led the Labour Party during one of the most turbulent periods in its history – with senior figures on the right breaking away to form their own party, the SDP.

He was forced to quit as leader after just three years when Labour suffered its heaviest election defeat in 50 years, with a left wing manifesto dubbed “the longest suicide note in history”.

But he is remembered as one of the great Parliamentary orators and debaters, whose intellect and wide interests outside politics – and his sometimes untidy appearance on the campaign trail – belonged to an era before spin and presentation took over politics.

Gordon Brown described him as a “unifying leader” of the Labour Party and a “genuine British radical” who would be remembered with affection by people from across the political spectrum.

Paying tribute to his personal friend outside Downing Street, the prime minister said: “Michael Foot was a man of deep principle and great idealism.

“He was the best Parliamentary debater of his generation and one of the most eloquent, and indeed one of the most humorous, speakers I think the country has ever had.”

He said Mr Foot would be mourned as a “man who was good, compassionate and dedicated to his country”.

Announcing Mr Foot’s death in the House of Commons, Justice Secretary Jack Straw compared one speech he gave in 1980 to a “Mozart concerto”, saying he was “held in very great affection in all sections of the House and the country”.

Former Labour deputy prime minister John Prescott said in a message via Twitter: “So sad to hear about Michael Foot. A great man has died. He was the heart of our movement.”

Lord (Denis) Healey, a former Chancellor of the Exchequer, who Mr Foot defeated in the 1980 leadership contest, said: “I am very sorry indeed. Although I disagreed with him on issues – he was far to the left of me – I was glad to serve as his deputy.”

And Tony Benn, who stood against Mr Healey for the deputy leadership in 1981 despite Mr Foot’s appeal for him to avoid a divisive battle, also paid tribute.

He told BBC News Mr Foot always “meant what he said” and was “what the Labour Party’s all about”.

Conservative leader David Cameron described Mr Foot as a “remarkable man”, adding: “I’m obviously not old enough to have been in the House of Commons at the same time, but reading some of his speeches (they) were incredibly powerful.”

Mr Cameron added: “He was a very intelligent, witty, amusing and thoughtful man.”

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said Mr Foot’s “intellectual integrity” was an example to everyone in politics.

“Michael Foot was a great parliamentarian, a great intellectual and a great idealist. He always stood up for what he believed in, even if that meant inviting unpopularity at times.”

Mr Foot first stood for Parliament in 1935, but he began his career as a journalist – editing the London Evening Standard by the age of 28. He had two spells as editor of left-wing journal Tribune, a magazine he would continue to contribute to into old age.

He entered Parliament in 1945, in Clement Attlee’s post war landslide and became a fierce champion of left wing causes as well as a founder member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

He was thrown out of the Parliamentary Labour Party for two years because he opposed increases in defence spending.

Mr Foot first became MP for Plymouth Devonport, before going on to represent for Ebbw Vale and Blaenau Gwent.

Before being elected Labour leader, he was Employment Secretary in the 1974-76 Labour government under Harold Wilson and went on to become Leader of the Commons between 1976 and the 1979 general election.

Bank Robbers Who Blew Themselves Up Win Darwin Award For ‘Improving The Human Gene Pool’

(Daily Mail) – TWO BANK ROBBERS have been declared the winners of the Darwin Awards 2009 after they blew themselves up while trying to crack open an ATM machine.

The Belgian pair used so much explosive to get their hands on the cash that they destroyed the whole bank building.

Nobody else was in the building at the time of the attack.

When police arrived at the scene, they found one of them with severe head injuries, and rushed him to hospital.

Investigators initially assumed that his accomplice had managed a getaway, but the second one’s body was excavated from the debris twelve hours later.

Wendy Northcutt, the founder of the annual awards, declared them the 2009 winners of the Darwin Awards, given to those ‘doing the most to improve the human gene pool by removing themselves from it’.

The two bank robbers had attempted to make a sizeable withdrawal from the ATM, but died when they overestimated the quantity of dynamite needed for the explosion.

The blast demolished the building the bank was housed in.

The first robber was rushed to the hospital with severe head trauma; he died shortly after arrival.

The bank robbers just edged ahead of their main rival Shawn Motero from U.S., who was stuck in a traffic crawl in Florida when he realised he needed to use the toilet.

Without one handy, he got out of the car before jumping over a concrete wall to find a more secluded spot.

Unfortunately, the 30-year-old had not realised he was on a bridge, and fell 65 feet to his death.

Award organisers said the accident proved you should ‘Look before you leak.’

Police revealed Mr Motero had been drinking at a bar in Pompano Beach before his tragic death, adding: ‘He probably thought there was a road, but there wasn’t.’

His mother said: ‘Shawn didn’t do a whole lot for a living. He got along on his charm, just like his father.’

In third place was the first ever woman to be nominated for the award.

Rosanne Tippett drove her moped into a flooded river, despite the warning signs.

She was rescued by police, but jumped back into the river in an attempt to recover the two-wheeler.

Four inches of rain had fallen in Greensboro, North Carolina, but the 50-year-old was determined to follow her usual route home.

Before embarking on her final journey she phoned her mother and told her: ‘My moped has two rubber wheels, Mom, I’ll be fine.’

She then drove through a police road block before losing control of  the scooter and falling into a swollen creek.

After being rescued by police she jumped back into the water to rescue her vehicle. Her mum admitted: ‘She loved that thing.’

Other nominees for the 2009 awards included an armed robber who, with an alleged accomplice, tried to disguise his face with gold paint as he raided a convenience store.

However, Thomas James from South Carolina used spray paint, which released toxic fumes and he collapsed shortly after the robbery.

To add insult to injury, the disguise was ineffective and witnesses had no problem identifying the 23-year-old.

His accomplice was charged with armed robbery.

The only U.K. victim to be nominated was a 41-year-old man from York.

The unnamed father-of-three was trying to demolish a garden shed. He succeeded but the roof collapsed on top of him and he was trapped in a pile of concrete rubble.

Fire-fighters used hydraulic rams and high pressure air bags to allow paramedics to reach the man after the accident in April, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Reduction in Fatal Road Accidents

(BBC) – THE NUMBER OF FATAL ACCIDENTS on roads in Essex over the past year has fallen compared with 2008, say police.

In total, 61 people died on the county’s roads in 2009, compared with 73 in the year before.

There were also 1,200 fewer serious injury accidents. Education programmes and prosecutions for offences would continue, police emphasised.

A spokesman said: “The reduction is encouraging; but with 61 deaths officers cannot rest on their laurels.”

Fifteen motorcyclists, 19 drivers, 11 passengers, 15 pedestrians and one cyclist were killed.

The causes of fatal accidents were driving too fast for the conditions, not wearing a seat belt when a vehicle crashed and being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the spokesman said.

Future education programmes would focus on these issues and police officers would continue the policy of prosecuting drivers for road law offences, he said.

Last Fighting Tommy Dies At 111

(Telegraph) – HARRY PATCH, the last British soldier to have served in the First World War trenches, has died at the age of 111.

Harry Patch

Harry Patch

Mr Patch, who was known as the Last Fighting Tommy, was the last living soldier to have fought in the bloody battle of Passchendaele, at Ypres, in 1917 — in which more than 70,000 troops died.

The veteran’s death follows that of Henry Allingham, also a veteran of the Great War, who died on July 18 at the age of 113.

Mr Patch, who was a machine-gunner in the Duke of Cornwalls’s Light Infantry, died on Saturday morning at Fletcher House care home, in Somerset, where he was living.

The Prince of Wales was among the first to pay tribute to Mr Patch, telling the BBC: ‘The Great War is a chapter in our history we must never forget, so many sacrifices were made, so many young lives lost. So today nothing could give me greater pride than paying tribute to Harry Patch from Somerset.

‘Harry was involved in numerous bouts of heavy fighting on the front line but amazingly remained unscathed for a while. Tragically, one night in September 1917, when in the morass in the Ypres Salient, a German shrapnel shell burst over-head badly wounding Harry — and killing three of his closest friends.

‘In spite of the comparatively short time that he served with the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, Harry always cherished the extraordinary camaraderie that the appalling conditions engendered in the battalion and remained loyal to the end.’

Chief Executive of Somerset Care, Andrew Larpent, said Mr Patch had been unwell for some time and had died peacefully in his bed.

Henry Allingham Dies

(Reuters) – HENRY ALLINGHAM, the world’s oldest man and one of the last survivors of World War One, has died at the age of 113, his care home said today.

Henry Allingham

Henry Allingham

Allingham, who once jokingly credited his long life to ‘cigarettes, whisky and wild, wild women,’ died in his sleep at the St. Dunstan’s care home near Brighton, on the south coast of England.

‘He died very peacefully and very comfortably in his sleep,’ a spokeswoman for the home said. ‘It was a sad day. We are all very saddened… There was nothing specific, he was just 113.’

Allingham, who became the world’s oldest man in June, following the death of Tomoji Tanabe of Japan, had five grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren, 14 great-great grandchildren and one great-great-great grandchild.

He was born in 1896, the same year Henry Ford created the Ford Quadricycle, the forerunner of the modern day car. Queen Victoria was still on the throne when he was a small boy.

In all, his life spanned three centuries and five British monarchs. He lived for 113 years and 42 days.

During World War One he served with the Royal Naval Air Service, fighting at the Battle of Jutland, the largest sea battle of the war.

He later transferred to the Royal Air Force when it was created at the end of the war in 1918. He was the last surviving founder member of the force.

‘His knowledge of the war, his personality, his character, they were all remarkable,’ said the care home spokeswoman.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who met Allingham at veterans’ day commemorations, offered his condolences to his family.

‘I had the privilege of meeting Henry many times. He was a tremendous character, one of the last representatives of a generation of tremendous characters,’ said Brown.

‘My thoughts are with his family as they mourn his passing; but celebrate his life.’

A spokeswoman for Buckingham Palace said Queen Elizabeth was saddened to hear of his death.

‘He was one of the generation who sacrificed so much for us all,’ he said. ‘Her thoughts are with his family during this time.’

Allingham’s wife Dorothy, whom he married in 1918, died in 1970, after more than 50 years of marriage. Allingham outlived both of his daughters from the marriage, but his extended family lives on, with most relatives living in the United States.

Towards the later part of his life, Allingham played a large role in telling his story and informing younger generations about World War One. Those who heard him speak praised the strength of his memory and his firm voice.

His funeral is due to take place later this month in Brighton, care home officials said.

… (25/07/2009) – Last Fighting Tommy Dies At 111

… (BBC, 27/07/2009) – Public pay tributes to Allingham