In February 1974, Foot was appointed secretary of state for employment and in 1976 stood unsuccessfully against James Callaghan for the leadership of the Labour Party. The victorious Callaghan named Foot deputy leader of the party that same year. Foot won the party leadership spot in 1980, taking the post when the party had moved to the Left, with calls for withdrawal from the Common Market (European Union, EU), abandonment of Britain's nuclear arsenal, and opposition to the basing of U.S. cruise missiles in Britain—policies that very much reflected Foot's political values. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's charisma and confidence after victory in the Falklands War (1982), combined with Foot's clumsy leadership style and commitment to nuclear disarmament, resulted in Labour's crushing electoral defeat in 1983. Foot subsequently resigned as party leader and was replaced by Neil Kinnock.
Foot retired from the House of Commons in 1992 but remained politically active. He defended the novelist Salman Rushdie, the subject of a fatwah by Ayatollah Khomeini, and argued strongly for intervention in the Balkans against Serbia and on behalf of Croatia and Bosnia. Foot also remained active in the nuclear disarmament campaign. A distinguished author, he has written highly regarded biographies of British Labour leader Aneurin Bevan and novelist H. G. Wells.
Wainwright, Hillary. Labour: A Tale of Two Parties. London: Hogarth, 1987.