The answer's in the title. The 2008 Labour Conference voted to make him their official "Greatest Hero", yet many people will have little idea about either the man or his achievements. In this short biography, Bob Holman seeks to address this ignorance and make a case for Hardie to be better known.
Born into a working class family and with little formal education, Hardie learnt about social injustice from the receiving end. By the age of 12 he had already become his family's main breadwinner and had first-hand experience of being trapped at the bottom of a mine shaft.
His story is of a rise from obscurity to becoming a founding genius of a Labour Party that functioned independently of special interest groups or the patronage of sympathetic, but essentially patrician, Liberals. It's the story, too, of a man of extraordinary principle and personal integrity.
At 200 pages, this is highly readable introduction to an important, but overlooked, political figure. It concentrates chiefly on the chronology of Hardie's life, but also looks for the influences that shaped his political philosophy. Personally, I felt that the author never quite brought Hardie to life: this was a man, after all, whose oratory drew people in their thousands, who inspired individuals to dedicate their lives to social justice, who fearlessly criticised wealthy hypocrites and who managed to organise a broad coalition of the Left into a political party (which was as difficult then as it is now).