John McNair (UK politician)

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John McNair (October 1887–18 February 1968) was a British socialist politician.

McNair was born in Boston, Lincolnshire, but moved to Tyneside at an early age. He left school when he was thirteen, working as an errand boy.[1] He joined the Independent Labour Party (ILP), and was involved in Victor Grayson's election campaigns in 1910, on one occasion having to fill for an entire evening when Grayson failed to arrive.[2] In 1911, he moved to Coventry, in an attempt to find regular employment, but his political activity made this difficult, and so, later in the year, he moved to Paris, where he lived and worked until 1923.[3] He worked as the London Organising Secretary for the ILP during the 1924 UK general election, but felt that this had harmed his health, and he returned to Paris, where he worked for the next twelve years.[4]

In 1936, McNair again returned to the UK, and was appointed as the ILP's national Organising Secretary and international representative.[4] In this post, he travelled to Spain with John McGovern, in order to investigate the role of the Catholic Church in the Spanish Civil War.[5] When McGovern returned to Scotland, McNair remained in Barcelona, running the ILP's political office, and making arrangements for the arrival of British volunteers to fight with the POUM;[6] these included George Orwell, who McNair met on Orwell's arrival.[7] Following the suppression of the POUM during the Barcelona May Days, he fled Spain with Orwell and two others.[8]

McNair was elected as General Secretary of the ILP in 1939, in which capacity he evacuated the party offices to Glasgow.[4][9] While holding the post, he stood in the Bristol Central by-election, 1943, taking 7.3% of the vote, and wrote an official biography of James Maxton, entitled The Beloved Rebel.[3] In 1955, McNair retired from the General Secretaryship, and returned to Tyneside, when he completed a degree at the University of Durham[1] in French and English history, and Greek and Roman culture. Aged 72, he followed this with an MA, his thesis being on the work of Orwell.[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b John McNair and Don Bateman, Spanish Diary, p.1
  2. ^ John McNair and Don Bateman, Spanish Diary, p.2
  3. ^ a b "McNAIR, John", Who Was Who
  4. ^ a b c John McNair and Don Bateman, Spanish Diary, p.3
  5. ^ Gidon Cohen, "Happy Hunting Ground of the Crank?", ed. Matthew Worley, Labour's Grass Roots, p.64
  6. ^ Tom Buchanan, Britain and the Spanish Civil War, p.76
  7. ^ John McNair — Interview with Ian Angus UCL 1964
  8. ^ George Orwell, The Orwell Diaries
  9. ^ Jeffrey Meyers, George Orwell, p.124
  10. ^ Hansard, 6 March 1968
Party political offices
Preceded by
Fenner Brockway
General Secretary of the Independent Labour Party
1939–1955
Succeeded by
Wilfred Wigham