|James Keir Hardie|
Born illegitimate near Glasgow in 1856, he went down the coal mines at the age of 10. As a young man, he was sacked for being a spokesman for the trade union. He later accepted a post as a trade union official which, along with his political activities, led eventually to his famous general election victory at West Ham South. By this time he was a socialist whose ideas owed little to Marxism and more to his experience of poverty and his conversion to Christianity.
After losing his seat at West Ham, Hardie gained another stunning victory at Merthyr Tydfil. He was joined by others in the Commons who elected him the first chair of the parliamentary Labour party. More than anyone, he succeeded in keeping Labour distinct from the Liberal party. When Labour's political fortunes ebbed, some flirted with an alliance with the Liberals. Hardie was prepared to co-operate on certain issues but never to lose the identity of Labour. He regarded the Labour party as the natural home of the working class. He was proved right after his death when the Liberals declined and Labour flourished.
It is difficult to transpose Hardy into modern times. But Labour should learn that radical policies do not necessarily lose votes. Hardie won much support from working-class people, from religious folk, and from middle-class sympathisers.
My admiration for Hardie is that his socialism was expressed both in his politics and his everyday life. He refused the offer of a safe seat and a salary from the Liberals. He detested titles, pomp and expensive lifestyles. Few contemporary Labour MPs put principles before pocket. And that is why Keir Hardie is worth remembering.