James Keir Hardie
By: Mick Yates
The story of James Keir Hardie (or Keir Hardie as he is more commonly known) is one of immense commitment and achievement. Born in North Lanarkshire, Scotland in 1856, his childhood and adolescence was characterised by severe hardship and tremendous responsibility. Sent out to work at the age of eight Hardie was the sole wage earner for the family, yet still managed to find time to teach himself to read and write.
Hardie’s political career began when he assisted in establishing a worker’s union and leading the first ever strike of miners at the colliery in which he worked. For this Hardie was blacklisted but continued to rise up through the ranks of Scottish Unionists, also becoming writer and editor of a newspaper caller ‘The Miner’ (later known as ‘The Labour Leader’).
In 1893 he was among a group of individuals who formed the Independent Labour Party, of which he was elected Chairman and Leader. The main objective of this party was to secure the collective ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange. Hardie soon realised that in order to obtain national electoral success it was necessary to join forces with other socialist groups in Britain, and in 1899 the Labour Representation Committee was formed. This committee eventually developed into the Labour Party. Six years later Hardie was elected Leader and whilst never made Prime Minister, he had overseen the most meteoric rise of a political party that Britain has ever witnessed.
Much respected by people of all political views, Hardie is remembered for founding of one of the first political parties for the working class. With immense passion for his cause he burned with zeal and selfless devotion in the attainment of what he felt were the necessities for the common wellbeing.
By Melanie Smith