Michael Foot, a former leader of the Labour party, has died at the age of 96, the government said Wednesday.
His death was announced to the House of Commons by Justice Secretary Jack Straw, who told MPs: "I'm sure that this news will be received with great sadness not only in my own party but across the country as a whole."
Foot was Labour leader from 1980 to 1983, advocating left-wing policies like nuclear disarmament which led one colleague to call his 1983 election manifesto "the longest suicide note in history".
He quit after being heavily defeated by the Conservatives' Margaret Thatcher in that poll.
But his leadership had caused deep divisions in the Labour party, where many wanted a more moderate path than Foot's outright socialism.
Four leading Labour politicians -- nicknamed the Gang of Four -- quit Labour in 1981 to set up the Social Democratic Party, whose centre-left ideas were later taken up by Tony Blair as he transformed Labour into New Labour.
Foot was seen as an eccentric, intellectual figure known for his long, white hair and electric oratory.
Commenting on his death, former Labour London mayor Ken Livingstone told Sky News: "He was brilliant to listen to. It's hard to think of any other recent political leader who had the literary capacity he did -- he poured out books.
"When you were with him, you were talking to a well-rounded individual who had a life outside politics."
Source: AFP European Edition