John Campbell (October 20, 1895 - 1981)was a Scottish politician who served as Prime Minister of Scotland from 1957 to 1959 and again from 1961 to 1963, he also served as Leader of the Reform Party from 1944 to 1964.
Campbell became leader of the Reform Party in 1944, and immediately set about reforming the party's internal structures, as well as its campaign machine. By 1950 the Reform Party was the main opposition party.
At the 1957 election the non-socialist parties won an absolute majority in parliament, and formed a coalition government initially headed by Campbell. His first government's main achievement was proving that multi-party coalitions could work. He was forced to make way for Centre Party leader Edward Sinclair in 1959, suceeding the former as Finance Minister. After the 1961 election he returned as Prime Minister, this time in a much more dominant position.
In 1963 his government collapsed, and he became leader of the opposition once again. He stood down as leader the following year, but remained in parliament until 1969. He largely withdrew from politics in his later years.
John Campbell was born on October 20, 1895.
Early Political Career
He first entered politics in 1927, running as the Reform party candidate in Central Glasgow (a safe Labour district). In 1930 he was chosen as the first Reform party candidate in for the Perthshire constituency, and was narrow elected. Campbell was seen as hailing from the left wing of the party, advocating greater public spending to help ease the effects of the depression upon the working classes, and spending on public works to alleviate unemployment. In 1931 he was re-elected by a substantially larger margin, and became even more critical of the government on the backbenches. He was by this point seen as the man most likely to succeed James Keating as party leader. However the election of 1935 was a disaster for the government, and the Reform party in particular, the party lost 2/3rds of its seats, including those of Keating and Campbell himself. James Edwards was elected the new Reform leader, and Campbell briefly retired from politics, returning to legal practice.
In 1939 he returned to politics, being elected in the Edinburgh South constituency – the constituency he was to remain in until retiring from politics. Edwards offered Campbell several spokesperson roles, even going so far as offering to make him Deputy Leader, however he repeatedly declined and remained a backbencher. However Edwards found life in opposition to the immensely popular Labour government incredibly tiresome, the 1942 election was nearly as bad as that of 1935, and the following year he announced his intention to retire from politics. Campbell quickly announced his intention to contest the leadership, but Edwards, not forgetting Campbell’s snub of 1939, desisted from resigning in the hope of an alternate candidate emerging. In the summer of 1944 Edwards finally resigned and Campbell was elected leader unopposed.
Campbell revamped the party's internal structures, increasing the power of the leader at the expense of constituency branches. He made the position of Deputy Leader appointed rather than elected by the parliamentary party.
The 1957 election produced an inconclusive result
On June 10th 1957 Campbell was elected Prime Minister, becoming the first non-socialist Prime Minister since 1935, and the first ever Reform Party Prime Minister. Later that day the rest of the cabinet was sworn in.
Many predicted that the uneasy coalition, and the cabinet full of strongly disagreeing personalities, would collapse within 18 months. However against the odds, and thanks to the efforts of Campbell and Sinclair, the government lasted the length of the parliament.
However, the diverse views within his government made radical reform practically impossible. Proposals from the Conservative Party to dismantle the National Health Service and de-nationalise industries were strongly opposed from within the government, as were Liberal proposals to increase public expenditure in areas like education. Despite this the government did have some major achievements, most notably the 1958 Housing Act which lead to a significant increase in housebuilding.
The government also became divided over European Community membership, with the Reform, Centre and Liberal parties being in favour, and the Conservatives opposed.
In July 1959, as per the coalition agreement, Campbell resigned as Prime Minister, being replaced by Edward Sinclair, with Campbell becoming Finance Minister.
The 1961 election saw the Reform Party gain 7 seats, winning 48 seats. The Reform-Centre-Conservative-Liberal coalition was returned to office, although this time with Reform in a much more dominant position.
In May 1963 the government fell following a motion of no-confidence passed with the support of the Liberal party. Subsequently the Liberal Party voted with Labour and independents to make Labour Leader James Bell Prime Minister without an election, the first time in Scottish history that a government had changed without an election.
Campbell led the Reform Party into the 1963 election, confidently believing that Labour would be defeated and he would be able to return as Prime Minister, publicly predicting that Reform could win up to 60 seats in the new parliament. Instead a series of gaffes and the popularity of Labour's James Bell ensured Reform suffered a poor defeat, and for the first time under Campbell's leadership Reform suffered a net loss of seats. Campbell stood down as Reform leader in 1964, and spent the rest of his period in parliament on the backbenches, before standing down from parliament in 1969. He gradually withdrew from politics, although in 1972 was elected Honorary President of the Reform Party.