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Tuesday, 14 December, 1999, 14:24 GMT
Blair joins tributes to Jill Craigie

Michael Foot and Jill Craigie: "Devoted" couple

Labour politicians have paid tribute to film-maker and author Jill Craigie, the wife of former Labour leader Michael Foot.

Ms Craigie died on Monday night at the Royal Free Hospital in north west London, aged 85.

She had been ill for some time, and a fall in the summer had exacerbated a heart condition.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said the news was "devastating" and that her husband had been "devoted" to her.

Former Labour Prime Minister Lord Callaghan of Cardiff said she had been a "a courageous lady of deep conviction".

Baroness Castle of Blackburn, a former Labour Employment Secretary and Social Services Secretary, said she had been "highly intelligent" and "beautiful".

Ms Craigie had had a long and highly successful career as an actress, film-maker, author and authority on the suffragettes.

She was also regarded as a great source of strength to her husband, who was leader of the Labour Party and the Opposition between 1980 and 1983.

Postwar fame

Jill Craigie was born in Derbyshire, the only child of Scottish-Russian parentage, and spent much of her youth at boarding school.

Foot at the '99 Labour conference: Craigie denied driving his career
While working at her first job, writing novelettes, she began developing and writing film scripts.

Her talent fully emerged in the postwar years when she became Britain's first woman film director, gaining sponsorship and general releases for her films.

She was famous for flouting convention, starting with documentaries and progressing to fictional films with a distinct socialist content.

She shocked Britain's cinema world by proving that films about ordinary people were box-office material.

Her two most acclaimed films were Blue Scar, about the everyday lives of miners, and The Way We Live, based on plans for the rebuilding of Plymouth after the devastation of the Second World War.

At the door of their South Wales home in 1983
In Wales, Blue Scar reportedly broke the records of the big box office films of 1948.

Political driving force

Ms Craigie married Michael Foot in 1949, when she was 34 and well-established, and he was 36 and an aspiring politician.

She also by then had a 13-year-old daughter Julie, by a previous marriage.

The couple had no children themselves but were fully committed to their family life with Julie and, later, her four children.

They lived in a flat in Hampstead, north London, and a cottage in Ebbw Vale, South Wales.

Throughout her marriage Ms Craigie continued an independent career, but always put her married life first.

Some went so far as to say she was the driving force behind her husband's political career, a role she always denied.

In latter years Ms Craigie became more involved with her book on the suffragette movement.

She believed she had one of the largest collections of feminist literature in Britain, with pamphlets dating back to John Stuart Mill.

Ms Craigie last hit the headlines a year ago, after she confirmed reports that she had been beaten and raped by the late Hungarian-born writer Arthur Koestler shortly after she was married.

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See also:
07 Jan 99 |  UK Politics
Blair 'wrong' to back US air strikes
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Let Livingstone stand for mayor - Foot
29 Dec 98 |  UK
Women force removal of Koestler bust
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