John Smith (Labour Party leader)

Labour Party leader from Scotland (1938-1994)

John Smith QC (13 September 1938 – 12 May 1994) was a British Labour politician who served as Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Labour Party from July 1992 until his death from a heart attack in May 1994.


  • If it is the case that one Department of this Government deliberately organised a leak to frustrate a Minister in the same Government, that is not only dirty tricks but a habit that is inimical to the practice of good government in this country.
    • Hansard, House of Commons, 6th series, vol. 89, col. 1157.
    • Speech on the Westland affair, 15 January 1986.
  • In the course of a few weeks the one policy with which the Prime Minister was uniquely and personally associated, the contribution to policy of which he appears to have been most proud, has been blown apart, and with it has gone for ever any claim by the Prime Minister or the party that he leads to economic competence. He is the devalued Prime Minister of a devalued Government.
    • Hansard, House of Commons, 6th series, vol. 212, col. 22.
    • House of Commons speech, 24 September 1992, referring to Black Wednesday.
  • In response to the plummeting popularity of the Administration itself, revealed at Newbury and in the shire county elections, we have the Prime Minister's botched reshuffle. If we were to offer that tale of events to the BBC light entertainment department as a script for a programme, I think that the producers of "Yes, Minister" would have turned it down as hopelessly over the top. It might have even been too much for "Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'em". The tragedy for us all is that it is really happening—it is fact, not fiction. The man with the non-Midas touch is in charge. It is no wonder that we live in a country where the Grand National does not start and hotels fall into the sea.
    • Hansard, House of Commons, 6th series, vol. 226, col. 292.
    • House of Commons speech, 9 June 1993. That year's Grand National horse race had been declared void after a start-line mishap. The Holbeck Hall Hotel in Scarborough began to fall into the sea on 3 June 1993 due to coastal erosion.
  • The opportunity to serve our country—that is all we ask.
    • Speech to Labour Party fund-raising dinner, 11 May 1994 (the night before his death).


  • It can fairly be said of John Smith that he had all the virtues of a Scottish presbyterian, but none of the vices.

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