Gordon Reid (April 3, 1925 - November 20, 1996) was a Scottish Labour politician who served as Prime Minister of Scotland from 1970 to 1973 and from 1975 to 1978, as well as Leader of the Labour Party from 1970 to 1979.
First elected in 1953, Reid entered cabinet in 1963 as Minister without Portfolio (1963-1965), later serving as Minister of Health (1965-1967) and Minister for Education (1967-1970). In 1970 he was elected to succeed James Bell as Leader of the Labour Party, and as such became Prime Minister.
During his first term as Prime Minister he enacted sweeping social reforms, including the legalisation of abortion and homosexuality, as well as ending censorship and enacting the Charter of Rights.
His second term as Prime Minister was overshadowed by economic stagnation, high inflation and a series of contraversial budgets.
Following his government's defeat at the 1978 general election he announced his intention to resign as Labour Party leader, standing down the following year. He retired from parliament in 1981, but remained politically active until 1988, when a series of strokes followed by the onset of parkinsons disease forced him to withdraw completely from public life.
Gordon Reid was born on April 3, 1925, the son of David Reid (1889-1938) a Labour MP and Minister and Ethel (1900-1967). The death of his father at such a young age had a profound effect on the young Reid. Although his mother was not to re-marry, he built up a close relationship with his fathers political friend Robert MacDonald. MacDonald was to act as a patron for Reid throughout his political career, and served as a father figure for the young Reid. He studied German at Edinburgh University, graduating in 1947. He was immediately employed by the Finance Minister Robert MacDonald as his political secretary. Only months later MacDonald became Prime Minister, and Reid became political secretary to the Prime Minister, at the age of only 22.
Early Political Career
Reid joined the Labour Party at the age of 21 in 1946, and whilst at University served as Secretary of the Edinburgh University Labour Club. Having always been obsessed with politics, he ran for Parliament in both 1950 and 1951 as a Labour Candidate in Edinburgh Central, failing to be elected on both occasions.
In 1953 he was successfully selected for Edinburgh East, being elected. His close personal friendship with Robert MacDonald was not enough to propel him into the cabinet, but he was appointed parliamentary secretary for the Prime Minister.
When Labour went into opposition following the 1957 general election Reid was finally appointed to the frontbench
In March 1970 James Bell announced he would be retiring as Leader of the Labour Party the following month. Although the move had been suspected by Ministers for some months, it shocked the party and the country. Reid was the first to announce his intention to stand, he was later joined by Agriculture Minister John Rayner, Defence Minister Andrew O'Brian and left wing backbencher Ryan MacDuff. The first round, conducted on April 5, resulted in Reid 36, Rayner 33, MacDuff 21 and O'Brian 13. O'Brian was eliminated and MacDuff withdrew. The second round held exactly a week later resulted in Reid 61 votes and Rayner 41 with 1 MP abstaining.
First Premiership 1970-1973
The 1973 election saw the Labour Party lose the overall majority it had enjoyed since 1969, winning only 88 seats, its worst result since 1961, and second worst since 1931. Reid conceded defeat as soon as the final result was declared, with the Centre-Right coalition forming a minority coalition government with the support of independent MPs.
Second Premiership 1975-1978
Only days after he had been re-elected as Prime Minister King Alexander V died after a long illness, ending his 59 year reign over Scotland. Reid declared a period of national mourning, and worked with the new King Alexander VI and opposition leader Iain McNair to bring about political stability.