'Michael Foot was not just a great man, but a really, good man'
Friends and supporters of the late Labour leader Michael Foot paid tribute to "a great leader" at a memorial service in his honour.
Former prime minister Gordon Brown, Lord Kinnock, Cherie Blair and Baroness Helena Kennedy were among guests at an evening of music, poetry and song held at the Lyric Theatre in London on Monday evening.
Plymouth-born Mr Foot, who was leader of the Labour Party from 1980 to 1983 and founder of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, was remembered as a "great leader" as well as a journalist, writer, campaigner and politician.
Mr Brown, who came on stage to cheers and lengthy applause, read William Blake's Songs Of Innocence in memory of Mr Foot.
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"I am here to celebrate not just a great man, but a really, really good man," he said.
"Michael Foot will be remembered by all of us as a writer, a journalist, an editor, an MP, a politician, a football supporter, a statesman and a great leader.
"He put before us a vision not only of world peace but of no poverty."
Harriet Harman, deputy leader of the Labour Party, read a tribute on behalf of Ed Miliband, who was absent because of the birth of his second child earlier today.
"Michael Foot was an extraordinary man, and we look in wonder at the breadth of his career and life," he said.
"His was a life lived to the full. Someone once said that people who have a profound impact on the world disturb the sleep of humanity. Michael Foot was one such man."
The evening was compered by Jo Brand, who shared a birthday with Mr Foot, and spoke of her poetry-based friendship with a man she described as "both a gentleman and a gentle man".
Soprano Lesley Garrett sang Mitch Leigh's The Impossible Dream, while journalist Francis Wheen dedicated a piano parody of Elton John's Candle In The Wind to Mr Foot and the KGB allegations that hounded him throughout his career.
Mr Foot, who died in March this year at the age of 96,was MP for Devonport from 1945 to 1955 and a lifelong supporter of Plymouth Argyle Football Club.
As well as his career in politics, Mr Foot worked as a journalist, and was appointed as the youngest editor of the Evening Standard newspaper in 1942 at the age of 28.
Colleague Geoffrey Goodman, the founder of the British Journalism Review, said "to speak of Michael Foot as a great journalist would take up this theatre not only all night but all week".
"I had a genuine love for that old rascal and mischief maker. Let nothing distract from his glorious qualities as a writer and a journalist and his fearless courage in the face of political and sometimes professional hostility."
Baroness Helena Kennedy, who was a close friend of Mr Foot, said he was a "truly great human being".
"Michael Foot was a campaigner to the end, horrified by war," she added.
"He was benign and caring, a listener as well as a thinker and a giver of ideas – his was a politics of substance over style."