British Labour politician, 19381994

John Smith is the man who might just have been Prime Minister, had he survived his heart attack. Formerly a Scottish barrister, he was elected to Parliament in 1970, served as the Secretary for Trade in 1978 and subsequently as Labour spokesperson on economic and industrial issues. Tending toward the right wing of the party, he developed a reputation as a moderate. He was elected leader of the Labour Party after Neil Kinnock's resignation in 1992, beating Tony Benn to the leadership.

A pragmatic, compassionate and careful man, many felt him to be the ideal choice to lead the country into a better economic and social balance following the Thatcher Years. Even many Conservatives admired and respected his common sense approach to politics, people and the economy. My own father (a lifelong Tory) said it was a sad day for politics when he died. Me, I cried when I heard the news.

In many people's eyes, John Smith was the "best Prime Minister Labour never had".

Captain John Smith 1580-1631

John Smith grew up in Willoughby in England. Following the death of his father he left home and begun his military career. In 1600 he achieved the rank of Captain whilst fighting in Hungary. A couple of years later he was captured by Turks, but by 1604 he had escaped, and made his way back to England.

It is at this point in his life that the American events which make him famous start to occur. On December 20, 1606 he left England in a group of three small ships that were to sail to Virginia, and start a colony. The journey to America lasted an amazing four months. Upon opening a sealed chest with which the settlers had been provided Smith learnt that he was to be one of the councillors for the new colony.

Life for the new settlers was hard. This native Algonquian Indians were very hostile. In 1607 Smith was captured by an Indian hunting party and taken to live in their camp. Here he impressed them, and won their friendship to some degree. After four weeks he was free to return to Jamestown. Finding a chaotic society upon his return he left to explore the surrounding region in the hope of finding better natural resources. In 1608 he became head of the council, and his strict ways enabled the colony to survive, and eventually grow.

In 1609 John Smith was injured in an accident and had to return to England. He never came back to Virginia.

After his death the following plaque was placed by his grave:

Captain John Smith
Sometime Governour of Virginia
and Admiral of New England
who departed this life the 21st of June 1631
Here lyes one conquered, that hath conquered Kings,
Subdu’d large Territories, and done Things
Which to the world impossible would seem
But that the Truth is held in more esteem.
Shall I report his former service done
In honour of his God and Christendom?
How that he did divide from Pagans three
Their heads and lives, Types of his Chivalry?
Or shall I talk of his Adventures Since,
Done in Virginia, that large Continent:
How that he subdu’d Kings unto his yoke,
And made those heathen flee, as wind doth smoke:
And made their land, being of so large a Station
An habitation for our Christian Nation
Our god is glorify’d, their Want supply’d
Which else for Necessaries must have dy’d.
But what avils his Conquests, now he lyes
Interr’d in earth, a Prey to Worms and Flyes?
O may his soul in sweet Elysium sleep,
Until the Keeper that all Souls doth keep,
Return to Judgement, and that after thence,
With angels he may his Recompense

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