A Final Salute To One Of the Finest Englishmen

The Lyric Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue, London was packed to overflowing last night with a galaxy of stars - and ordinary footsoldiers - who had all come to pay tribute to the late Michael Foot, bibliophile, writer, campaigner and politician who died earlier this year. A former editor of the Evening Standard and of Tribune twice, Foot's glory days on these newspapers, as well as the Daily Herald, were recalled by veteran journalist, Geoffrey Goodman, who praised Foot for his legendary courage and honesty - "He was even booted out of France by General de Gaulle, for writing critical articles", revealed Goodman. Mistress of Ceremonies was comedian Jo Brand who recalled Foot's kindness in always remembering her birthday - it was the same as his, and more proscially of singer David Essex. She also regaled the audience with the tale of talk show presenter Johnathan Ross, who spotting Michael walking in the rain on Hampstead Heath, offered him a lift. Foot, as ever was animated in his conversation as he sat next to Ross, but once home clearly hadn't the foggiest idea who Ross was. Serendaded by a Welsh Choir and band from Tredegar, Michael Foot's old South Wales constituency, a succession of speakers including former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, former Labour leader, Neil Kinnock, Helena Kennedy, Roy Hattersley - with a broken leg - Cherie Booth -who wasn't charging a fee for a change - and  Geoffrey Robertson QC took to the stage, the latter reminding the audience of Foot's famous legal vistory over Rupert Murdoch, whose Sunday Times had accused him of being a KGB agent. "Rupert is a great Australian, in the same way that Attila was a great Hun!", exclaimed Robertson to huge applause. Hattersley was up next and regaled the audience with his and Foot's visit to Buckingham Palace, and a greeting from the Queen who had just come off the phone to King Juan Carlos of Spain. "He is objecting to the Royal Yacht calling in at Gibraltar", Her Majesty informed them. "But it is my son on board, my yacht and my dockyard". To which the fiercely Republican Foot replied "Queen Elizabeth the First couldn't have put it better!" Foot's great nephew, Tom Foot, was next up to explain how a few years back he decided to broach the delicate matter of where Michael might want to be buried - to which the great man's reply was "Nowhere near a church!", while Lord Steel - a former partner with Michal in another coalition, the Lib Lab Coalition of the late 1970s - candidly admitted that Foot "mightn't be too happy with what some of the Liberal Democrats are up today". As the lights went up, so came the final salute; a rendition of 'Jerusalem' and the 'Red Flag'. Remarkably, given the Blair years and New Labour - a period that Foot was not so keen on - most of the audience seemed to have remembered the words.. 

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