Politicians gather on Scottish isle to remember John Smith

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Indy Politics

Politicians joined the family of John Smith on a Hebridean island yesterday to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of the man who has been called "the best prime minister Britain never had".

The former Labour leader died on 12 May 1994, after suffering a heart attack at his flat in central London. He was 55. He succeeded Neil Kinnock as party leader after the Conservative general election victory in 1992.

Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, and John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, joined Mr Smith's widow, Elizabeth, and his daughters Sarah, 35, Jane, 32, and Catherine, 31, for a memorial service at Iona Abbey, where he is buried. John Reid, the Health Secretary, Alistair Darling, Secretary of State for Scotland, and the former lord chancellor Lord Irvine of Lairg also attended.

The Rev Douglas Alexander, a close friend, told the congregation that John Smith had pursued a vision of righteousness: "John was genuine. He did not fake it and he fought to the end, though he was never to see the completion of his work."

The service included a tribute from Tony Blair, who said: "John's sudden, unexpected death sparked a remarkable sense of loss right across the country, not just among those fortunate to know him. I also believe there was a widespread understanding that the country had lost prematurely a good and decent man."

John Major, who was Prime Minister when Mr Smith died, said: "John was a man of conviction and ability with standards appropriate to high office, and his loss to Parliament was personal as well as political."