The reason why the writer and polemicist Paul Foot has such an exalted reputation has always been a mystery to me. For almost four decades, this hardline Marxist was revered as one of the great campaigning journalists of Britain, widely admired for the passion he brought to his work. Yet I found his writing dreary in the extreme; I cannot remember ever being able to finish one of his Guardian columns. I am told he had a sense of humour, but on the page he appeared capable only of alternating between ideological hectoring and leaden sarcasm.
Foot liked to boast that he had never changed his politics since he began his career as a journalist in 1961. But such iron consistency should have been a source of shame rather than pride, given the unprecedented global developments over the last forty years, from the collapse of the