Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Jimmy Reid - 1932-2010

“There will be no hooliganism, there will be no vandalism, there will be no bevvying because the world is watching us - and it’s our responsibility to conduct ourselves responsibly, and with dignity and with maturity."

There goes Jimmy Reid, who along with Jimmy Airlie, led the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders
work-in at the Glasgow shipyard during 1971 and 1972.

His speech, at the beginning of the occupation of the yard, went down as one of the most iconic moments in Scottish Labour history. The work-in itself saved the yard as Tory Prime Minister Edward Heath reversed his decision not to support the UCS.

He was installed as rector of Glasgow University in 1972 and his famous "rat race" inaugural speech was reprinted in its entirety in the New York Times.

He said: "A rat race is for rats. We're not rats. We're human beings. Reject the insidious pressures in society that would blunt your critical faculties to all that is happening around you, that would caution silence in the face of injustice lest you jeopardise your chances of promotion and self-advancement.

This is how it starts, and, before you know where you are, you're a fully paid-up member of the rat pack. The price is too high."

Reid went on a long political journey, from his Communist trade union background, across the Labour party and into the SNP. A true firebrand, he stayed steadfast to his beliefs so perhaps it was not him who went on the voyage, maybe it was just Scottish politics that moved around him.

He was an able and skillful communicator, in print, in front of camera and to a live audience. I met him first at the Herald in the early 1990s. His company was flattering, and he always remembered me subsequently.

Reid stood as a Communist Party candidate in 1974 and polled over 6,000 votes in the Dunbartonshire Central constituency. He was beaten by a cruel conspiracy in which the Labour Party and the Catholic Church colluded to denounce him.

That's the bitterness that he alludes to in this clip, which gives a passionate, dignified, impression of who the man was.

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