Paul Foot was an investigative reporter par excellence who in the late 70,s and throughout the80, s worked as a columnist for The Daily Mirror until a boardroom coup saw the papers socialist's leanings compromised and he was forced out. He found a welcome home at "Private Eye" under the Editorship of Ian Hislop and has also written for The Gaurdian , Socialist Worker and Socialist Review so it's not difficult to work out where his political proclivities lie. This book is a follow up to an earlier collection of his columns "Words As Weapons" and as such is a collection of his writings for various publications.
Under the various headings he pours typical scorn, lacerating logic and barely repressed anger on the heads of deceitful avaricious self serving politicians, incompetent judiciary, mendacious lazy policemen and most satisfyingly Jeffrey Archer, Thatcherism and our present Government. Utilising his outstanding journalistic instincts, relentless dedication and huge patience he gets to the facts of the cases documented with the deadly accuracy of a truth seeking missile.
There is a swathe of material covering a wide range of issues to digest- The case of the Broadwater Four, The death of Stephen Lawrence (One of the worst cases of judicial and police ineptitude it has ever been my displeasure to read about. It is one of those things like the James Bulger tragedy and the killing of Damilola Taylor that makes me angry and sad at the same time) the case against Colin Stagg, the unholy mess made of the inquiry into The Lockerbie bombing - are all covered in forensic detail which is more than be said about the authorities charged with the job officially.
Politicians like Jonathan Aitkin , John Major , Michael Helseltine get in the neck , which is no surprise as they are corpulent capitalists , but he is just as scathing towards New Labour , perhaps more so , attacking Mandleson, Blair and most surprisingly great white hope Gordon Brown . Media tycoons such as Murdoch and Maxwell are exposed for the megalomaniac tyrants they are. He laments the loss of the power of the trade unions and concludes that socialism and social democracy has failed through the ballot box and he would have got no argument from me on that one.
By way of contrast the first chapter titled "Heroes And Heroines" is more of a history lesson and takes in such disparate characters as Toussaint L, Ouverture (who in reality did far more to bring about the abolition of slavery than William Willberforce) Thomas Paine who wrote "The Rights Of Man", the first leader of the Labour party Kier Hardie, the film maker Ken Loach and Doris Lessing whose book "The Golden Notebook" was primarily about the condescension of women. Indulgently he also names Shakespeare on the grounds that some of his work was primarily about the class struggle.
Some of this book is by turns abstemious and self indulgent and it lacks true humour, which for someone closely associated with "Private Eye" is surprising on the surface ,but then he was never a satirical animal . But it's superbly written, erudite, scathing, and forensically researched. It reeks of what Foot calls "The pick me up for all socialists" indignation .No one can deny it's relentless pursuit of truth and justice and it's a great shame that he passed away in 2004 and is no longer around to shine his light on the dark holes that the rich the powerful and the corrupt don't want us to see.