Jimmy Reid's grand-daughter warns 'rats are still with us' as she battles to become Labour MP

Joan Reid Scottish has warned her grand-father's famous speech has never been more relevant.
-Credit: (Image: Tony Nicoletti Daily Record)


The grand-daughter of legendary trade unionist Jimmy Reid has warned his famous “rat race” speech has never been more relevant as she battles to become an MP.

Joani Reid is standing for Labour in East Kilbride and Strathaven where she is fighting to overturn a huge SNP majority in a constituency hammered by the cost-of-living crisis.

For 18 months, the married mum of two has been knocking doors on a relentless campaign drive and is now favourite to be elected after the SNP’s Lisa Cameron caused outrage by defecting to the Tories.

Lisa Cameron defected to the Tories.
Lisa Cameron defected to the Tories. -Credit:PA

Jimmy Reid grabbed headlines around the world when he led the early 1970s Upper Clyde Shipbuilders’ work-in to stop Edward Heath’s Tory government closing down yards.

The New York Times declared his barnstorming 1971 address to Glasgow University titled Alienation as the “greatest speech since President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address”.

He told students to “reject the values and false morality” of “self-centred and grasping” rampant capitalism.

And he followed up with the now immortal line: “A rat race is for rats. We’re not rats. We’re human beings.”

Reid, who died in 2010 aged 78, was described as the “best MP Scotland never had” and Joani, 38, is now determined to finally continue his work of championing the plight of workers in parliament.

She said: “When my grandfather talked about the rat race and alienation, you can see it in the way the Conservatives are behaving in the dehuminisation of lots of different groups – from immigrants with the Rwanda policy to the claims of a sick note culture among workers.

“All of the things he was warning about in the 1970s have been turbocharged by the current government at Westminster and I don’t think the Scottish Government under the SNP has done anything like enough to address serious inequality and poverty either.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar was in East Kilbride with Joani Reid.
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar was in East Kilbride with Joani Reid. -Credit:Wattie Cheung

“My grandfather was passionate about education, skills and jobs for working class people so they could take control of their own lives and better themselves, but we have had no serious industrial and skills strategy in Scotland for years.

“My mum and aunty are both further education college lecturers and that sector has been cut 25 per cent more than universities.

“The attainment gap between the better off and children from low-income households remains massive, the downgrading of working class students’ exam grades during Covid was a disgrace, child poverty is stubbornly high.

“These are systemic societal issues we thought in the 1970s would be resolved, or at least would be improved over time, but instead we are in reverse.

“All the things in his speech are very much with us today and getting worse and if I get into parliament, I will be working every day to try to turn that around for people in my constituency.”

When Joani moved to East Kilbride with her husband, two-year-old son James and four-year-old daughter Helena, the chances of success for Labour appeared slim. Cameron won in 2019 with a 13,000 majority in the slightly revised East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow seat.

Since then, Joani has worked tirelessly to establish herself in an area which was considered a Labour heartland as recently as 2010.

Jimmy Reid at the shipyards in the 1970s.
Jimmy Reid at the shipyards in the 1970s. -Credit:Daily Record

She added: “I have met countless mums with young kids like me who are having to make really tough choices.

“Older people are having to re-mortgage their homes to get knee operations because of NHS waiting times.

“We have pockets of real poverty in East Kilbride but what I am seeing is that everyone, including thousands of working families, are really struggling.

“People are having their mortgages coming to an end and then being crippled financially by the higher rates they are being put on to.

“Working people are having to use food banks. Mums and dads are having to cut their kids’ dance classes and sports clubs in order to put food on the table, it is desperate and heartbreaking stuff.”

Reid was born in Glasgow and studied philosophy and politics then worked in London for several years before moving home to be closer to family.

She added: “I believe Labour’s new deal for working people is going to be transformational. It is something I am going to be fighting really hard for in parliament if I am privileged enough to be elected. As a mum of two living in the heart of the constituency, I know that our community deserves better than the past 14 years of Tory decline and nearly 17 years of SNP incompetence – things need to change.”

The son of a shipyard worker, Reid was born in 1932 and brought up in Glasgow’s Gorbals. He left school at 14 and soon became a shipyard engineer as well as joining the Communist Party.

Reid was later a Labour Party member, before going on to support the Scottish Socialists in the late 90s. He joined the SNP in 2005 and fully supported Scottish independence.

Joani said: “He changed parties and there is no doubt he fully supported Scottish independence but I know his principles never really shifted in that he believed strongly in giving communities the power to make their own decisions and to define services like education around what people needed.

“I don’t want to put words into his mouth and I know he wanted an independent Scotland.

“But it was never his raison d’etre, it was a means to an end, not an ideological goal in itself because the things he
was most passionate about were fighting poverty, educational attainment and the creation of high quality
jobs.”

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