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Camden New Journal - One Week with JOHN GULLIVER
Published: 10 September 2009

Michael Foot
Cato, and the fight to stop Hitler’s war

I MET Michael Foot on Monday who is probably one of the last people alive who sat in the gallery of the Commons 70 years ago during the momentous debates that led to the declaration of war.
Of course, Michael, now in his mid-90s, watched Neville Chamberlain rise to his feet, but the speech that is locked in his mind is that of the Liberal MP Lloyd George.
Michael, a journalist, had just left the left weekly Tribune and joined the Evening Standard, then an influential daily whose views were closely noted by the Cabinet.
At his Hampstead home, Michael told me: “I heard all the speeches from the gallery, especially the speech by Lloyd George. He wound up a debate with such a tremendous attack on Chamberlain, that Chamberlain couldn’t really survive. Other things he might have survived. I saw it from the gallery when Lloyd George said: ‘In peace and war you have been routed – the sooner you clear out the better’. From my point of view it was very exciting. It was a great debate.”
“At the Standard, we were anti-Chamberlain about the whole way in which he came back from Munich and we had protested as strongly as we possibly could.
“We published Mein Kampf to show what a horrible thing was happening in Europe and how odious it was to us.”
It was on the roof of the Evening Standard’s offices in Fleet Street that Michael, along with the editor of the Standard, Frank Owen, and another reporter, Peter Howard, began to pen – under the pseudonym “Cato” – what turned out to be one of the historically most important books of the era simply called Guilty Men.
It named 15 public figures – in particular Chamberlain and Ramsey MacDonald – for their failure to confront Hitler before he was able to crank up the war machine. They were the guilty men – in effect, traitors.
None of the guilty 15 knew who had written it. Who was Cato? In the clubs and public halls the pseudonym remained a mystery.
Michael’s boss, Max Beaverbrook, owner of the Standard and the Daily Express, a man who loathed Hitler, was secretly pleased about the amazing success of the book.
Questioned about losses being made by his newspaper by Lord Halifax, one of the 15 guilty men, Beaverbrook joked: “I’m doing well with the royalties from Guilty Men!”
The pacey, beautifully written introductory chapter, on Dunkirk, was penned by Michael. You can taste his anger at what our soldiers had to endure on the beaches of Dunkirk, and his undimmed admiration for their bravery – their courage in contrast with the treachery and cowardice of the guilty appeasers
A sensation, the book went through seven editions printed in one month and 200,000 copies were snapped up despite an embargo by the major book distributors.
Michael became part author of a book that built a wave of popular resistance to Hitler and fascism. It was a book of momentous importance the like of which had not been seen in Britain since the stormy days of reform lit by the Chartists a century earlier.
I read the book this week. I thought of Michael, and the part he had played for the survival of Britain though he would be too modest to see it in that light, and I felt I had met a man who had made history.

Tube’s falling standards

A MAN fell clattering down the spiral staircasae at Camden Town Tube station on Friday evening. It was me!
Was fate pursuing me as I fell headlong down at least 10 to 12 steps and landed at the foot of the 96 steps!
Was I being mocked for a recent piece in this column in which I wrote about the dangers of passengers having to use this staircase following the closure of the down escalator.
I wrote that the closure meant parents with push-chairs, or with children or the very elderly or the slightly handicapped would not be able to use the station.
I was listening to the announcer advising women with push-chairs to use either Mornington Crescent or Chalk Farm stations and counting the steps when I must have slipped on the last lot of 20 steps.
I hurtled head first down the staircase, shouting as I fell to the bottom.
Shaken, I slowly raised myself, helped by a member of the staff, Anthony Andrews, a first-aid assistant.
Before you begin thinking that the station staff are so prepared for the worst that they have a first-aid man waiting at the foot of the stairs with a net, so to speak, to catch falling travellers, you would be wrong.
It turned out that Anthony was part of a station staff team of four who stand at the foot of the stairs to direct travellers. He helped me to my feet and I felt my body – my left knee was grazed, my right thigh bruised, a left leg muscle felt pulled, my left trousers had been discoloured by the painted edges of the steps, and my ribs hurt. Later, I discovered I had cracked my ribs.
I then discovered that a carrier bag full of newspapers and magazines in my left hand had acted as a buffer thus breaking my fall. I was lucky.
Anthony told me there had been an accident two weeks earlier. I was surprised they weren’t more considering thousands descend rapidly in the rush hour.
He did not possess an accident form to fill in, and had to exchange his name, scribbled down on a scrap of paper, with my card.
Why are the English so meek? They will grumble but do very little about how the travelling public are treated. In other European countries, there would have been riots by now over the long closure of the down escalator at Camden Town Tube.
I made my thoughts clear to Anthony but knew he was not responsible – responsibility lies with those who run the system – though if the staff protested publicly over the way they have to manage such a creaking public transport machine they would gain much more respect from the public.

Corinne Carter sits at the Waterlow Park bench in memory of Trevor surrounded by friends and family
Corinne Carter sits at the Waterlow Park bench in memory of Trevor surrounded by friends and family

‘The Bull’ How Trevor charged in to fight good causes

WHO is Trevor Carter? Why does the nameplate of the new teak bench set down in Waterlow Park, Highgate, by friends and family on Friday morning refer to him as “The Bull”?
In speeches at the ceremony by the parish reader at St Augustine’s Church, Archway, Alysoun Whitton, Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn and educationalist Professor Gus John Travor, Carter’s life was peeled away.
Born in Trinidad, Trevor came to Highgate in the mid-50s, worked as a teacher, became an active member first of the Communist Party, then the local Labour party, and before the end of his 76 years turned back to the church, and the religious beliefs of his youth, and helped the clergy at St Augustine’s church.
But why “The Bull”?
Later, his widow, Corinne, told me that had been the nickname given by all the three or four families from Trinidad who shared a large house in Cromwell Avenue, Highgate, after their first arrival in London in 1956.
To them, Trevor was a man who got things done, a man who would challenge any form of authority in the pursuit of justice and fairness, a man who could be like a bull!
Professor Gus John remembered his guidance to young people, a man who helped to start up the Notting Hill Carnival, a friend of all new West Indian arrivals in the capital.
Too many young people today in the black community, lamented Professor Gus John, sadly have no sense of their own history – and Trevor would patiently explain their past.
Afterwards, at a buffet at the family home in Archway, memories were shared about The Bull. It occurred to me that whatever pulled Trevor back to the church, it was probably more than an accident that he found a home in St Augustine’s church, named after the great African philosopher St Augustine of Hippo, whose teachings Christians have followed for centuries.

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