Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Michael Foot and Free Speech

In my posting immediately after Michael Foot's death, I was too pessimistic about how he would be remembered. Yesterday's report of his funeral in the Indy was typical of the high esteem in which he was still held.

For my part, I must correct the impression I gave that the 1950s discussion programme which Foot took part in was a BBC televised version of the "Brains Trust". In fact, it was a Sunday afternoon programme presented for ITV by John Irwin and Edgar Lustgarten. It was called "Free Speech" and typically also featured Sir Robert Boothby MP (his underworld connections and bisexuality not then public knowledge, of course), Bill Brown, the reactionary general secretary of the Civil Service Clerical Association who had started his career as a radical firebrand, and AJP Taylor, the historian. There was thus a straight conservative/socialist divide.

I doubt that, sadly, Associated Television, the company which had the London franchise and produced "Free Speech", considered recording any of those smoke-wreathed arguments. Even then, ITV companies operated on a tighter budget than BBC.

In the edition of TV Times for the second week in April 1956 in which I found the above programme information, there was a celebrity endorsement of the Daily Mail. The man featured in the advertisement for the deep-dyed conservative daily was Lord Elton, the father of Thatcher-baiting Ben.

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