Author Archives: Stuart Weir

Workhouse to Westminster

The chances are that you haven’t heard of Trevor Smith, or to be more precise, Professor Lord Smith of Clifton.  He was the prime financial and intellectual force behind the surge for democracy in the 1990s when Charter 88 was rampant under Anthony Barnett, and the Blair governments were legislating for a spate of constitutional reforms.

Smith is a man of singular entrepreneurial vision and remarkable political energy who most unusually followed through his many ideas in action.  He was a political scientist of distinction when he took on the chair of the Joseph Rowntree Social Services Trust in 1987 and transformed it into the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust with a strong democratic direction.  You should know that he became a close friend and colleague of mine.

His autobiography, Workhouse to Westminster, is published this month and gives a nice rollicking account of his family background – his father spent time as a boy with his family in a workhouse, polishing the stone floor – as well as his proactive chairing of the Trust for 12 years, his ‘Lucky Jim” years as an academic, his time as a reforming Vice Chancellor of Ulster University and as a Lib Dem activist and Lib Dem peer in the House of Lords (where he campaigned vigorously for its abolition and his place in it).

Posted in Books and Op-eds | 3 Comments
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