Born in Glasgow, McKay was the Chair of the AEU’s Clyde District Youth Committee and the all-union Junior Workers body in his youth.
An EC member of the Communist Party from 1979, although he came sixth from last in a voting field of 42 successful candidates. Nonetheless, he narrowly obtained a lead over Nina Temple, who he would eventually be beaten by for leadership of the Party as it trailed into revisionism and destruction. Despite an inauspicious start at the top, McKay became the Communist Party’s full-time Head of Press and Publicity, and a member of the PC in 1980, introducing the main political report in May of that year, an evident sign even back then of things to come.
Having been given miscellaneous additional responsibilities as an EC member, he shed these – students, peace and elections – in 1981 to become the acting editor of Comment, the Party’s weekly internal journal. He was also then given some responsibility for a review of Inner-Party Democracy.
During the onslaught by the increasingly revisionist and even anti-Communist Executive Committee on Marxist elements in the Party during the internal battles that ensued in the mid-1980s, McKay was given the prime responsibility for the London District of the Party.
This came after the conducting of a wholesale purge of long-time activists when the London district congress refused to submit to the diktats of the General Secretary, Gordon McLennan, about the Morning Star. McKay was so cautious and unenthusiastic about pursuing this vendetta that he completely lost the support of the ultimately victorious revisionist faction. In turn, the centralist bureaucracy that had allied with the revisionists against the Party’s trade union wing and its voice, the Morning Star, and favoured McKay became increasing weak or even turned towards the revisionists. Thus McKay’s star began to wane dramatically, although, in fairness, the disposal of the Party’s assets and the promise of pensions additional to state benefits to veteran full-timers may have played a role for some.
In a bewildering cycle of gestures of outdoing each other, leading figures of what was becoming a rump CPGB became more and more hostile to the Morning Star. It was McKay who delivered the report to the EC of the Communist Party of Great Britain on the conflict with the Peoples’ Press Printing Society, the legal owner of the Morning Star in 1986, as the first steps were being taken to loosen connections the CPGB had with the paper.
McKay was made National Organiser in 1988. Intriguingly, the following year, a CPGB delegation to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, led by General Secretary, Gordon McLennan (see separate entry), also involved Ian McKay and Nina Temple. It was likely that McLennan had a plan that Ian McKay would succeed him in this leading role, with Temple playing a supporting role.
The Communist Party of Britain had been re-established by the mass expelled members, also gaining later adherents from the fall out from the CPGB implosion, leaving all a range of fragments to fade after Nina Temple (see separate entry) succeeded McLennan, leading to the final closing down of the CPGB.
Whilst various comfortable futures were established for former CPGB full-timers, it is believed that Mr McKay worked as a London bus driver in the late 1990s, until his retirement.