19 January 2012


I’m sad to hear of the death of Janey Buchan, the Scottish left-wing activist and former MEP, at the age of 85. She was an extraordinary woman, a crazy world-class hater – she told everyone that her memoirs on which she was working were going to be titled Shits I Have Known – yet one of the most generous people I have met in politics.

No one was ruder about anyone than Janey, but she was a softie at heart. She and her husband Norman, the late Labour MP, put me up every time I went to Glasgow as a young, broke Tribune journalist, and she was a doughty supporter of dozens of other friends in small and big ways. A ferocious devourer of the media – and an accomplished writer -- she never lost her youthful Communist Party enthusiasm for campaigning (she left the party over Hungary in 1956), and she was very good at it until well into her seventies. But boy, was she batty as hell.

Her sense of humour was wicked. She placed a small ad in Tribune many moons ago that suggested that George Galloway, a Janey hate-figure, was not very good at his job. Galloway sued and settled out-of-court for £2,000 to be given to a charity. Janey coughed up and put the money in a Galloway libel account, where I think it’s sitting to this day.

I disagreed with her a lot and on occasion found her impossible, but we could do with a few more like her today.

  • Michael White has a good obituary in the Guardian here.

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