Paul Foot, campaigning journalist and socialist to the end, dies aged 66

James Burleigh
Monday 19 July 2004 00:00

Paul Foot, the campaigning Private Eye journalist and nephew of the former Labour leader Michael Foot, has died. He was 66.

Paul Foot, the campaigning Private Eye journalist and nephew of the former Labour leader Michael Foot, has died. He was 66.

Mr Foot suffered a suspected heart attack at Stansted airport on his way to Ireland with his partner, Clare, and nine-year-old daughter, Kate.

He was renowned for his dogged investigative journalism and was voted Campaigning Journalist of the Decade in the What The Papers Say awards four years ago.

Lindsey German, who has known Mr Foot for more than 30 years after meeting him at the Socialist Review, said she was "very, very sad" to hear of his death. Ms German, convener of the Stop the War Coalition, said: "Paul had a huge amount still to contribute to politics and to journalism and that has now been lost to us. It is a tragedy."

She added that his next book on democracy and the campaign for the vote was due for publication shortly.

Mr Foot met his future Private Eye co-founders - Richard Ingrams, Christopher Booker and Willie Rushton - half a century ago while at Shrewsbury School where they worked on a satirical version of the school magazine.

A period of National Service followed where he secured a relatively safe posting as second lieutenant in the West Indies and in autumn 1958, Mr Foot and Mr Ingrams were reunited at University College, Oxford, where they ran the satirical university magazine Mesopotamia with Peter Usborne and John Wells.

After leaving Oxford, the group set up Private Eye and the first edition was published on 25 October 1961. Notable stories broken by Private Eye in the early years included BP sanctions-busting in Rhodesia; the Heath government's talks with the IRA; the 1971 payola scandal, in which DJs were taking kickbacks to play records; and the Poulson scandal, which led to the resignation of the Home Secretary, Reginald Maudling. Most of these were down to Mr Foot.

After joining Socialist Worker in 1972, Mr Foot moved to the Daily Mirror in 1980 where he worked for 13 years until forced out when his editor refused to print articles criticising the newspaper's management. Mr Foot then returned to the Eye. His books include Who Killed Hanratty? and Murder At The Farm: Who Killed Carl Bridgewater?

In 1999, it was discovered that he had a thoracic aortic aneurysm after suffering sudden chest pain. It took five weeks for him to recover consciousness.

In 2002, he came third in the Hackney borough mayoral race running as a candidate for the Socialist Alliance - a left-wing umbrella group that represents groups including the Socialist Workers Party, the Communist Party of Great Britain and the Revolutionary Democratic Group.

As well as his partner and their daughter, he leaves two sons, John and Matt, from his first marriage to Monica and another son, Tom, from his marriage to Rose.

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