Archbishop's tribute to 'man of the people': Charles Oulton reports on the memorial service for John Smith, the Labour leader who died of a heart attack in May - UK - News - The Independent

Archbishop's tribute to 'man of the people': Charles Oulton reports on the memorial service for John Smith, the Labour leader who died of a heart attack in May

JOHN SMITH has moved on now, his soul at rest, his body surrounded by the peace of the island of Iona. The choice of burial ground may have surprised some observers who saw the former Labour leader in terms of his charicature as the friendly bank- manager-type, more at home in the city than the wilds of his native Scotland.

But at yesterday's memorial service for the former Labour leader, in Westminster Abbey, an event of sombre reflection - with the odd flourish - which united political enemies as only death can, it was hard to avoid the impression that Mr Smith had only ever really been at home in the wilds. Or as Gerald Manley Hopkins put it in his poem, Inversnaid, the words of which echoed around the abbey in a powerful reading by the actor, Brian Cox:

What would the world be, once bereft

Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,

O let them be left, wildness and wet;

Long live the weeds and the wildness yet.

The rest of his life - which was necessarily carried out in cities like Glasgow and London - seems, in contrast, a duty, albeit one carried out with humour and a love of ordinary people, which set him apart. It was this sense of duty, this 'vision of social justice' as the Dean of Westminster, the Very Rev Michael Mayne, put it in the bidding, that made him the political leader that he was. That, combined with his wit and incisive mind, his integrity and trustworthiness, his love for his family who sustained him, and his delight in the mountains that refreshed him.

His wit was well known to many of the 2,000 people in the abbey, who included John Major, former Labour leaders in Lord Callaghan and Michael Foot, many members of the Cabinet, countless MPs and dignitaries, and friends. But although it surfaced often at the despatch box, it was more in evidence in private, during conversations behind the scenes.

In his address, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, paid tribute to the way Mr Smith had cared for ordinary people. He wanted all of them to have opportunities to develop their full potential. 'Social justice was his cause, rooted in his fierce and instinctive commitment to the worth of every living person made in the image of God. He minded passionately about the life and chances and dignity of ordinary people.'

The Archbishop went on: 'John Smith is the name of everyman. That is fitting because every man is what John Smith the political leader stood for and worked for. Politics, as practised by John Smith and many others in all parties, is not a shallow or cynical pursuit. It is a way of serving the community, demanding hard work and high standards.'

(Photograph omitted)

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Life and Style
tech... and together they're worth at least £100 million
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig is believed to be donning skies as 007 for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
Life and Style
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
tech(but you can't escape: Bono is always on your iPhone)
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Programme Test Manager

£400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently seekin...

IT Network Manager - Shepherd's Bush, London

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Network Manager - Shepherd's Bush...

Secondary supply teachers needed in Peterborough

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Secondary supply teac...

Modern Foreign Languages Teacher

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: Full time German Supply Teacher...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week