Jimmy Reid



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Described as "the best MP Scotland never had", Jimmy Reid was undoubtedly of the most important figures of late twentieth-century Britain. Often at the forefront of the major turning points in the history of industrial relations and politics in Britain, Jimmy’s story is an epic one; from a poverty-stricken background in Govan, Glasgow, he became a communist at a young age, leading a national strike of engineering apprentices while only twenty, before being thrown into the national limelight as the leading spokesperson for the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders Work-In in 1971-2. Disillusioned with communism he left the Party for Labour and the centre-left before leaving them disenchanted with New Labour to join the Scottish National Party. This enlightening book looks at Jimmy’s political journey from Communism, to Labourism, and ultimately to Nationalism (a political life in three acts), which not only speaks of the complexities of left politics after 1945, but also illuminates our understanding of institutions and social change in post-war Britain by showing how they were understood and negotiated by one inspirational individual.

'The book is deeply researched and develops a sensitive and revealing portrayal of the man and, no less important, his social and political background [...] Probably better than any other work it brings out the richness and diversity of working-class culture on Clydeside. Its two authors are particularly well qualified to do so. Alan McKinlay brings an unrivalled understanding of workplace relations in the West of Scotland and William Knox an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Scottish labour movement.'
John Foster, 'Jimmy Reid biography symposium: reflections on a changing communist Clyde-built man' in Scottish Labour History

'The new biography of Jimmy Reid has been a long time in the gestation but it's well worth the wait [...] Though an academic work, it's an easy but fascinating read, as well as informative and thought-provoking.'
Kenny MacAskill, 'Jimmy Reid biography symposium: reflections on a changing communist Clyde-built man' in Scottish Labour History

'William Knox and Alan McKinlay’s book provides an overdue and much-needed scholarly companion to the repertoires of folk-history that sustain Jimmy Reid’s place in Scotland’s popular historical consciousness.'
Rory Scothorne, 'Jimmy Reid biography symposium: reflections on a changing communist Clyde-built man' in Scottish Labour History

‘The life of Reid has many insights and stories to be shared, as the authors’ indicate, noting how ‘Reid never stopped battling against poverty and inequality’ and that ‘he was in individual, an outsider, a man of restless intellect’
Paul Griffin, Journal of Contemporary History

'The book is a welcome addition to a recent spate of biographies of leading communists that provide an important and useful addition to our knowledge of such leading cadres, as well as helping to restore some balance in the flow of materials from the struggles in which the biographical subjects were leading players.'Roger Seifert, Labour History Review

Author Information

Dr W.W.J. Knox is Honorary Senior Lecturer in Scottish History at the University of St Andrews. Professor Alan McKinlay is Professor of Human Resource Management at Newcastle University Business School.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
List of Illustrations7
List of Abbreviations9
1. Beginnings: ‘I’m from Govan’27
2. Apprenticeship53
3. Cadre79
4. UCS Work-in107
5. Transitions151
6. Leaving171
7. Strike205
8. Reborn235