Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown will deliver the inaugural Campbell Christie Lecture at the Festival of Politics, established to recognise the former general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) who died last year.
Mandy Rhodes, Editor of Holyrood magazine pays her tribute to Campbell Campbell Christie was one of my huge political heroes and his death in October last year ended a remarkable chapter in Scotland’s history in which he showed that you don’t need to be politically tribal to get things done.
As a student in the early 1980s when there was so much to rail against, Campbell was just one of those giant figures that influenced me. Amid all the protests, of which there were many, Campbell was always there offering a voice of reason. He was never an angry man and unlike others in the trade union movement at the time, he wasn’t a shouter but he certainly got his message over with force.
I got to know Campbell really well during his work on the Christie Commission and was just so impressed by his guiding principle that public service was an honourable thing to do and should always have people in need at its heart. This belief came from his own childhood experiences. His father died when Campbell was just 7-years-old leaving behind a wife and six sons ranging in age from 2 to 18.
The year was 1944 and so before the Welfare State and a reassuring safety net. Those early times were understandably very hard for Campbell and his family but ingrained in him the conviction that others should never suffer a similar fate.
Campbell may have been a big softie in some ways but he was no fool and didn’t mince his words. When we first met to do an in-depth interview his opening gambit was to tell me that he had been told not to trust me. I asked him why he had bothered to turn up and he said it was up to me to prove my critic wrong.
So, no pressure! We ended up talking for hours and after the interview was published he called me to thank me. He said that he had been brought to tears by some of the recollections in the piece and that he had found things out about himself that he hadn’t known or thought about. I asked him if he now trusted me and he said that he had never doubted he would because in fact he never trusted those that indulge in rumour and tittletattle.
That to me was Campbell; interested, interesting, non judgemental and a wee bit of a devil. I’ll miss him and my heart goes out to his family but what an honour to have known him.
The Campbell Christie lecture Friday 24 August 16.30-17.30. Debating Chamber