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Our Noble Johnston

Tom Johnstone Credit National Galleries Scotland

IN WITHOUT QUARTER, his 1995 biography of the man, Russell Fairgrieve wrote, ‘No one else this century has dominated Scottish politics quite like Tom Johnston.’ This will surprise those, including some within politics, some in the Scottish Labour Party, who have never heard of Johnston.

Johnston is perhaps largely forgotten because his achievements - which were considerable - seem to belong to a bygone era, rather than just the last century. Even the idea of a Labour Government seems to have a period charm, these days, though Johnston was prominent in the wartime National Government. Johnston, though no left-winger, was a class-based socialist who penned a pungent diatribe against Scotland’s aristocracy, and a scholarly History of the Working Classes in Scotland. I expect Jeremy Corbyn has heard of him and regards him with respect, but his nu-Blairite rivals would find little common cause with the feisty and determined Johnston.

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