John Smith Centre for Public Service to be created at University of Glasgow


On the 20th anniversary of the death of the Labour Party Leader, the Rt Hon. John Smith Q.C., M.P., Baroness Smith of Gilmorehill is delighted to announce the creation of a new Centre to “promote public service as a noble vocation” and provide a lasting, fitting and meaningful tribute to the life and work of John Smith.

Appropriately housed at the University of Glasgow, where John and Elizabeth Smith both studied and first met, the John Smith Centre for Public Service will be operational by the end of this year. Its focus will be to encourage debate on and provide research into the value of public service, as well as attracting young people to contribute to public life, with a view to restoring the reputation of the role of public servants.

Commenting on the new Centre, Baroness Smith said:

“The night before he died, John gave a speech at a Labour Party Gala Dinner in London concluding with the words: “The opportunity to serve our country - that is all we ask.” It is that single phrase that encapsulates a lifetime of seeking to help others through efforts in public service.” 

“I am sure if he was still with us today it would trouble John greatly to find public life held in so low esteem.  Given all he stood for, I believe John’s life can still serve as an inspiration to a future generation who at present may not see the value of such work.”

“I am hugely excited by this new initiative. The work of the Centre will seek to define what public service is in the modern age, how it should be conducted and how everyone can consider contributing to it, whether in local communities or on the world stage.”

Professor Anton Muscatelli, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow said:

“As a University we are delighted to be part of an initiative for which we think we are the perfect home. John Smith was one of our most distinguished alumni. A bust of his image has pride of place in the Glasgow University Union where he debated and discussed some of the most vital issues of the day. His influence and impact were, and are, profound. It is clear that we now live in an age of crisis and renewal. We should focus on the opportunities for renewal and creating the institutions and ideals that can drive improvement across society. The John Smith Centre for Public Service will be a suitable vehicle to deliver on these aims.”

The former senior civil servant and Cabinet Secretary Lord Gus O’Donnell added his support. “I am delighted that the John Smith Centre for Public Service will be based at the University of Glasgow, the alma mater of John and his wife, Elizabeth, and my first employer. The new centre can take forward John's vision by examining how politicians and public servants can best serve their country and how the best can be attracted to these noble professions. It is an excellent and fitting initiative to mark one of our leading politicians.

The John Smith Centre for Public Service will soon begin the process of recruiting a director to oversee its work and also to secure funding for its research programme for 2015.