There have been so many times over the last year that I have felt the need to say something about the daily chaos of political life. Quite often I write the first sentence on here and then stop myself either through despair or lacking energy to take on the social media backlash. So as you have gathered there haven’t been many posts on my ‘political’ blog and I have concentrated on getting on with work and family.
But yesterday was different. The 25th anniversary of the death of John Smith MP stuck a chord with me. It reminded me of a different age in politics and what might have been.
I was very lucky to have been briefly involved with John. I am making no great claims. He probably wouldn’t have remembered me and my small contribution to his leadership. I had been a candidate in the 1992 election in Loughborough and had been taken under the wing of a few people at national level. So when i got a message from somebody working for Robin Cook MP to see if I wanted to ‘co-ordinate’ the East Midlands constituency labour parties as part of John’s leadership election I jumped at the opportunity. We met as a ‘team’ in Westminster a few times with Robin chairing but I never got to see John up close. But I had followed him closely through the 92 campaign and was impressed by him. There was something different about him that stood out.
I recall being at the Festival Hall for the day the Leadership ballot was announced – I believe we won with something like 92% of the vote. He was very gracious in victory and I the memory of the warm thanks he gave for my pathetically small contribution still lives with me.
There are many more people who were genuinely close to John and can tell you of the values and attributes he brought to political life. But for me – a young candidate and hopeful for the next General Election – he helped shape how I thought and acted.
For me the famous quote as some of his last words that all he asked was the chance to serve. This has stayed with me not only throughout my political life but also in my work and personal life. A model of servant leadership is one I have tried to adopt throughout my career and even as I prepare for an interview for a leadership role next week these words are at the forefront of what I want to get across.
I have also complained over the last few years that Parliament lacks the big beasts. John would have dominated the current House of Commons with his humour and cutting analysis. He would have been at the forefront of the European debate – leading the remain cause from the front. Today is not the time to go into why the current leadership doesn’t even deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as John… but that is for another day.
RIP John Smith. Your memory lives with many of us as an inspiration and you touched thousands of lives even in death. From the responses I have seen on my social media your integrity reached wide and far beyond those of us hooked on politics. You can’t ask much more of a life than that.