John Smith

1938 - 1994

John Smith MP
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

John Smith MP

Member of Parliament and Leader of the British Labour Party. Born in Dalmally and raised in Ardrishaig (Argyll and Bute), where his father was headmaster of the primary school, Smith was educated there, then at Dunoon Grammar School and the University of Glasgow. He latterly lived in the Cluny district of Edinburgh. A successful advocate, he was elected as Member of Parliament for North Lanarkshire (1970), which became Monklands East in 1983.

Smith had been a champion of Scottish devolution but, frustrated by the 'no' vote in the referendum of 1979 and the defeat of his party in the general election of the same year, this became his 'unfinished business'.

He was widely respected for his integrity, intelligence and humanity. He introduced significant reforms in the Labour Party with the intention of tempering the influence of its left-wing and the trade unions in an attempt to bring the party back into power. Suffering a heart-attack, he died suddenly in opposition while widely expected to become the next British Prime Minister and is buried on the Island of Iona. His wife, Elizabeth, became Baroness Smith of Gilmorehill.

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