Matthew Parris

Where’s the Beef?

John Smith – The Slow, Steady Rise of Labour's New Leader

By

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‘I do not know what species of bird is halfway between a hawk and a dove, but I fancy the posture of that bird.’ Here. John Smith is talking about nuclear disarmament, but the posture has served him well more than once. Among those of us who hardly know him, Mr Smith’s image may be dull, but it is solid and on balance pleasing. Impressions of Labour’s new leader show a notable consistency across a wide range of commentors. Words like ‘prudence’ and ‘integrity’, ‘steadfastness’, ‘resolution’ and ‘judgement’ spring to mind. ‘Honour’, especially, springs to mind. So I took up Andy McSmith’s new study expecting to have those preconceptions nourished by stories of his youth, his early political career and days as a minister, and news of his behind-the-scenes role through Labour’s turbulent dark age in the Seventies and early Eighties.

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