Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Michael Foot Appearing on the First Ever BBC "Question Time"

The First Ever Question Time (BBC - 25 September, 1979) [Part One]

In light of the death of former Labour leader (from 1980-1983) Michael Foot, who has died at the age of 96 today, here is the most extensive footage I can find of him on Youtube. Coverage of Foot is pretty scant on the website at the moment, but I'm sure that will correct itself soon. This is when Michael Foot was a leading candidate to become the next leader of the Labour Party after Prime Minister James Callaghan's downfall to Margaret Thatcher's Conservatives at the May 1979 General Election. Presented by Robin Day, the panel is completed by former Scottish Conservative MP Teddy Taylor, (who lost his Glasgow Cathcart seat at the previous election) Irish novelist Edna 'O Brien and Archbishop Derek Worlock. This is the first and full edition of "Question Time", in six parts of 10 mins+.

"Question Time" was a topical discussion show that tour in studios, church halls and various other venues around the UK, and would contain a local audience with a scale of wide-ranging view. Members of the audience would be able to ask pre-selected questions (sometimes wonder if they're not their own questions but volunteers for BBC production staff allowable queries for the show), asking a selected number of politicans plus religious leaders and artistic intellectuals (now, pillored with perhaps a celebrity, who is sometimes clueless!). Mostly serious issues are discussed, lighter issues may be asked at the end of the show.

The issues discussed in this episode are the Pope John Paul II's visit to Ireland and whether he should've went to Northern Ireland ("The Troubles" era) and how a story of animals trapped in an aeroplane in Rome had top billing over the state of the economy in the news (aww, we're such animal lovers us Brits), and more.

"Question Time" was not intended to last long, as it has. The BBC, much like the viewing audience, had tired of the 5-nighter that was "Parkinson" the chat show, and reduced it to 3 nights a week, and to be replaced by something different in tone, more serious. Little to be known at the time, the show has now been running for over 30 years. Robin Day hung up his anchoring boots in 1989, then-Channel 4 newsreader Peter Sission took over for a few years, and David Dimbleby has presented the show since 1994.

Michael Foot was leader of the Labour party at a tulmutuous time for the party. Foot was one of the intellectual members of the left wing of the party. A somewhat eccentric manner and look to the man, infamous for wearing a "donkey jacket" at the cenotaph at Remembrance Sunday in 1981. He was though a great orator of the old guard of politicians, never a man to personally please the media, but did things his way. His leadership from 1980-1983, was very unsuccessful, as his anti-war stance and plea for unilateral nuclear disarmament, was not greeted well by voters, especially as PM Maggie Thatcher boldly went to war with Argentina and won quickly, after their invasion of the Falklands Island, a British colony. This bolstered Thatcher's Conservatives they smashed Labour in the 1983 General election. Despite that, Foot was also set back by the plight of the Labour party almost coming to breaking point in 1981, when right wing Labour MP's "The Gang of Four" left for a breakaway party, "The Social Democratic Party", headed by Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Shirley Williams and Bill Rodgers. Further party in-fighting continued, and Foot's manifesto for the 1983 election was labelled "the longest suicide note in history" by right-wing Labour MP Gerald Kaufman.

Although Foot's leadership was a failure, he was a vital part in keeping the party together, until it blossomed under his old apprentice Neil Kinnock. Also, some experts claim, some economic warnings heeded by Foot could've helped Britain stop the full brunt of the 2008 recession.

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