TWO key figures quit Mirror Group Newspapers yesterday.

Award-winning Daily Mirror columnist Paul Foot said he had been left

in an intolerable position after his editor David Banks refused to

retract a ''smear'' which suggested he was mad.

Board member Lord Hollick, 46, the millionaire head of the MAI money

broking and advertising combine, resigned after a behind-the-scenes

power struggle, blaming disagreements over ''governance and policy


The departures are the latest in a series of upsets at MGN, which was

thrown into crisis by the collapse of the late Robert Maxwell's media

empire last year.

The new management, led by chief executive David Montgomery, set about

cutting costs and shedding staff, causing a bitter dispute with members

of the National Union of Journalists which has rumbled on for months.

Last night Mr Foot accused the management of a ''systematic campaign

of union-busting, the like of which has never been seen before''.

A column by Mr Foot, 55, criticising management was banned from the

newspaper last week.

Mr Banks said he was ''very sad'' that Mr Foot was leaving, but added

that there would be a ''sense of relief'' among Mirror staff.

The Daily Mirror NUJ chapel (office branch) described Mr Foot's

departure as ''an unmitigated disaster'', adding in a statement: ''We

are deeply saddened that this management has no concept of the values

that this paper once stood for.''

Mr Foot's departure after 13 years at the Mirror comes less than a

month after another columnist Anne Robinson defected to Today, saying

the management had created a ''fearful'' atmosphere on the paper.

A few days earlier, political columnist Alastair Campbell also

resigned, sparking a chorus of outrage from Labour MPs.

Lord Hollick came to the Mirror in partnership with Mr Montgomery

after Robert Maxwell's death plunged the group into crisis.

But the two men fell out over Mr Montgomery's management style.

In a statement last night, MGN chairman Sir Robert Clark said Lord

Hollick's decision was ''not surprising'', as he was the only board

member who had refused to back the management in a resolution last


* Paul Foot has always been an outspoken crusader for the underdog and

a scourge of the Tory establishment.

Over the years he has campaigned doggedly against alleged miscarriages

of justice and his Mirror column, begun in 1979, and previous work on

Socialist Worker, New Statesman and Private Eye, courted controversy.

But his fearless style brought him the title campaigning journalist of

the year at the British Press Awards in 1981, and he was What the Papers

Say journalist of the year in 1990 for his part in the campaign to free

the Guildford Four.

Mr Foot, 55, lists neither parents nor school in Who's Who, but his

background is at once illustrious and solidly Labour -- his father was

Labour peer Lord Caradon, a governor of Cyprus, and his uncle is former

Labour leader Michael Foot.

He was furious when new Mirror editor David Banks disclosed his salary

as #55,000 during the messy row over his spiked column.

''It's actually a couple of thousand less, although many people at the

Mirror think I earn much more,'' he reportedly said.