John Smith

The Rt. Hon. John Smith QC MP

The leader

John Smith was one of the outstanding politicians of his generation. He was leader of the Labour Party at a time when it was struggling to recover from ideological divisions that had led it to suffer four consecutive electoral defeats. By bringing to his leadership a combination of tactical judgement, clarity of thought and simplicity of language he won the trust of politicians and the public alike.

The loss

It was widely expected that John Smith would be the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He died tragically in May 1994 just when the British public had come to realise that he was a person who they could trust with their future.

The achievement

John Smith was not in the ordinary mould of political leaders in the UK. His rise to the top of the Labour Party was a tribute to the society in which he passionately believed. He came from a modest background and succeeded in breaking into politics thanks to his intellect, debating skills, and capacity for achieving practical compromises. He created the unity that was necessary for a party that sought to bring about social justice, but which had too often been diverted by internal disagreements.

A living memorial

Many in public life, including Tony Blair who succeeded John and became Prime Minister in 1997, have acknowledged that the John Smith Trust has come to represent the values that John believed in and expressed so clearly during his time in Parliament. The Trust's Fellowship Programme is a celebration of those values: openness, honesty, tolerance, respect for the dignity of others and a passion for social justice.