23 FEBRUARY 1940, Page 6

Robert Smillie—though you never heard him called any- thing but

Bob—was a great figure in the Labour world in his day. That day ended, for practical purposes, ten or a dozen years ago. Smillie sat in the House of Commons as Member for Morpeth from 1928 to 1929, but he was not in his element there. His place was on the platform or in the miners' lodge. Dour in manner but not in tempera- ment, he was a pertinacious and trusted leader. I shall always remember one incident in which he figured. I may have recalled it here before. It was at a great Labour meeting in the Central Hall in 1917 just after Arthur Henderson had resigned from the War Cabinet and George Barnes had joined it instead as its Labour member. Smillie was speak- ing. " In my trade," he said, " we call a man who takes another man's job—a black-leg." The last word was shot out with venomous emphasis and greeted with tumultuous applause. It was grossly unfair to George Barnes (who was present on the platform), for he had taken Henderson's place reluctantly and solely out of public spirit. But Smillie's forensic success was complete.

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