John Smith: Twenty years on

Chris Hallam's World View

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The Labour leader John Smith died suddenly of a heart attack, twenty years ago this Monday on May 12th 1994. Had he lived, he would now be seventy five. He would also, no doubt, be a former Prime Minister, rather than an Opposition leader whose tragic premature death prevented him from getting to the top.

Smith only led the Labour Party for two years. I don’t recall much popular excitement about his election as leader in July 1992. The contest against the perfectly decent left winger Bryan Gould (who subsequently returned to his native New Zealand) was a foregone conclusion and a dull affair.

There was also some feeling that after losing for the fourth time in a row in April 1992, Labour might never win again. After all, if Labour couldn’t win during a Tory recession when could it win? Surely the economy would have recovered by 1996…

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