4 Mar 2010

Former UK Labour leader Michael Foot dies

7:29 am on 4 March 2010

The former leader of the British Labour Party, Michael Foot, has died, aged 96.

Mr Foot was elected Labour leader in 1980, succeeding former Prime Minister 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, the BBC reports.

Prime Minister and Labour leader Gordon Brown has described Mr Foot as a man of deep principle and passionate idealism.

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.

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, the BBC says.

Mr Foot, who had been ill for some time, died at his home in London.