Keir Hardie - Labour's First Leader


2015090920150910 (R4)

Gordon Brown tells the story of James Keir Hardie, Labour's first leader.

Gordon Brown first learned about Keir Hardie whilst an undergraduate at Edinburgh University. Lying in hospital, temporarily blinded, he listened to tapes sent by Hardie's biographer, Fred Reid. Now Gordon goes on a personal journey to trace Hardie's footsteps from the shipyards of Govan to Lanarkshire mining villages. On the journey he attempts to understand how Hardie, an illegitimate child, brought up in dire poverty and with no formal schooling, who was down the mines by the age of 10, became the first leader of the Labour Party.

Visiting the church Hardie joined in Hamilton, a town where Gordon's own father was a minister, he explores the influence of Christianity and temperance on Hardie's political development. Arriving at Hardie's final home in Cumnock, Brown concludes it was his moral outrage at the poverty, hypocrisy and injustice he experienced in early life, followed by his conversion to socialism whilst working as a union agent, that convinced Hardie of the need for a new party to represent working people in Parliament.