John Francis Cunningham (born February 16, 1936 - August 2, 2004) was a Scottish Labour politician who served as Prime Minister of Scotland on three occasions (1989, 1990-1991 and 1993-1995), and as Leader of the Labour Party from 1989 to 1997.
First elected to parliament in 1961, Cunningham's political rise was rapid, entering cabinet in 1968 as Postmaster General, and later served as Energy Minister (1970-73). He soon came to be associated with the more right wing elements within the party. When Labour returned to government in 1975 he was made first Minister of Defence (1975-77) and then Minister for Social Security (1977-78).
When Gordon Reid stood down in 1979 Cunningham was a strong contender to suceed him, but agreed a deal with Andrew Fraser whereby he would not stand in exchange for being appointed Finance Minister. When Labour returned to office in 1981 Cunningham was appointed Finance Minister.
As Finance Minister Cunningham battled constantly with Fraser about the scale and pace of economic reform, Cunningham preffering balanced budgets, tighter spending controls and elements of privatisation and Fraser preferring a more moderate speed of economic reform. By 1987 Cunningham was privately lobbying MPs to support a leadership challenge against Fraser, and in 1988 openly challenged him for the leadership, losing narrowly. He subsequently resigned as Finance Minister.
In 1989 Cunningham challenged again, this time winning by an equally narrow margin. He briefly formed an administration but was unable to present a budget or any legislation due to an imminent election campaign, which resulted in a defeat for Cunningham and the Labour Party.
In December 1989 the centre-right coalition government was suddenly and unexpectedly defeated on a budget vote, leading to a snap general election the following January. The election saw Labour gain only two seats, but Cunningham was subsequently elected Prime Minister thanks to the support of the Liberal, Green and Socialist parties, as well as 4 independents.
John Francis Cunningham was born on February 16, 1936 in Glasgow the son of Archibald Cunningham (1890-1950) and Charlotte Kinsey (1903-2001). His father was a doctor, and was killed in a traffic accident when Cunningham was 14.
From 1954 until 1959 Cunningham attended Glasgow university, at first studying medicine, then politics. Whilst at university he was very active within the Labour club, along with future rival Andrew Fraser, whom he defeated for the club presidency in 1957. Upon graduating in 1959 he was recruited by the Labour Party, working as a research officer in party offices.
Early Political Career
Cunningham entered Parliament as MP for Glasgow South at the 1961 election, his first attempt at running for elected office. He became
Cunningham finally announced in May 1996 he would step down in March 1997.