Helen Liddell, Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke

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The Right Honourable
The Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke
PC
British High Commissioner to Australia
In office
1 September 2005 – 1 October 2009
Preceded by The Lord Goodlad
Succeeded by The Baroness Amos
Secretary of State for Scotland
In office
24 January 2001 – 12 June 2003
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by John Reid
Succeeded by Alistair Darling
Economic Secretary to the Treasury
In office
3 May 1997 – 27 July 1998
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Angela Knight
Succeeded by Patricia Hewitt
Member of Parliament
for Airdrie and Shotts
In office
1 May 1997 – 5 May 2005
Preceded by Constituency Created
Succeeded by John Reid
Member of Parliament
for Monklands East
In office
30 June 1994 – 1 May 1997
Preceded by John Smith
Succeeded by Constituency Abolished
Personal details
Born (1950-12-06) 6 December 1950 (age 63)
Coatbridge, United Kingdom
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Alistair Liddell
Children 1 son, 1 daughter
Alma mater University of Strathclyde
Religion Roman Catholicism

Helen Lawrie Liddell, Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke PC (born 6 December 1950) is a British Labour Party politician who was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Monklands East from 1994 to 1997, and then for Airdrie and Shotts until 2005, whereafter she became the British High Commissioner to Australia until 2009. She also served as a Cabinet Minister as Secretary of State for Scotland.

On 28 May 2010, it was announced in the Dissolution Honours List that she would be made a life peer.[1]

Early life[edit]

She was born Helen Lawrie Reilly, the daughter of a Catholic father and a Protestant mother, and she was educated at St. Patrick's Catholic High School on Muiryhall Street in Coatbridge, and attended at the same time as John Reid, whom she later replaced as Secretary of State for Scotland and also made way for as MP for Airdrie and Shotts.

She gained a BA in Economics from the University of Strathclyde. She is a member of the Labour Party and was the first female General Secretary of the Scottish Labour Party at the age of 26 from 1977-8.

Early career[edit]

A former BBC Scotland economics journalist from 1976-7, Liddell has taken flak for her closeness to media proprietor Robert Maxwell. Working as aide she famously followed him on one occasion in to a Gents' toilet while being recorded by a TV crew, she was also the public affairs director of Maxwell's Scottish Daily Record.[2]

After Maxwell's disgrace she tried to distance herself from him claiming that she had never worked for Maxwell.[3]

Helen Liddell published one novel about women in politics, called Elite (Century, 1990). The cover description calls it 'a riveting contemporary novel about the power of women in politics, and a story of manipulation – sexual, political and diplomatic'. In it, Ann Clark ('a Scottish Labour MP who has shot from prominence from nowhere and has now risen to become Scotland's most powerful figure') fights to repress her history of links with 'a home-grown terrorist organisation' while cementing her rise to power during the Cold War.

Parliamentary career[edit]

She contested East Fife in October 1974.

Liddell was first elected to Parliament in 1994, at the closely fought Monklands East by-election following John Smith's death.

She was Secretary of State for Scotland from 2001 to 2003, a position whose powers had been transferred to the Scottish Executive after devolution in 1999. She was a controversial character, dubbed Stalin's granny, Attila the Hen and the Nat Basher in Chief (because of her constant attacks on the Scottish National Party). In addition she angered the monks of Buckfast Abbey when she called on them to stop selling Buckfast Tonic Wine in Scotland. She was also dubbed Minister for Monarch of the Glen[4] after several visits to the set of the hit BBC series.

The disclosure that she was able to work French lessons into her ministerial diary[5] raised questions about the relevance of Scottish Secretary's job post-devolution and it was abolished as a full-time position in 2003, when the Scotland Office was rolled into the Department for Constitutional Affairs.

After politics[edit]

She took up appointment as[6] Britain's High Commissioner to Australia in the summer of 2005. She was succeeded in the role by Valerie Amos in October 2009.[7]

Like all former Cabinet ministers, she remains a member of the Privy Council.

She was created a life peer on 7 July 2010 taking the title Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke, of Airdrie in the County of Lanarkshire.[8] Six days later she became House of Lords member at which seat she remains till this day.[9]

Personal life[edit]

She married Alistair Liddell in 1972 and they have one son and one daughter.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Peerages, honours and appointments". 10 Downing Street. 28 May 2010. Archived from the original on 1 June 2010. Retrieved 24 June 2010. 
  2. ^ "Business News". Coventry Telegraph. 30 March 2001. Archived from the original on 23 July 2011. [dead link]
  3. ^ Purnell, Sonia (3 November 2001). "Cap'n Bob? We won't hear a bad word said against him". The Independent (London). Retrieved 4 May 2010. 
  4. ^ Ashley, Jackie (27 January 2003). "Haggis and press sneers fail to stop tough Scot". The Guardian (London). Archived from the original on 26 October 2012. Retrieved 4 May 2010. 
  5. ^ "Helen Do-little". The Daily Telegraph (London). 6 February 2002. Archived from the original on 22 March 2007. Retrieved 4 May 2010. 
  6. ^ Tempest, Matthew (2 April 2004). "Liddell set to be Australian high commissioner". The Guardian (London). Archived from the original on 14 May 2011. Retrieved 4 May 2010. 
  7. ^ "Change of British High Commissioner to Australia" (Press release). British High Commission in Australia. 3 July 2009. Archived from the original on 25 April 2014. Retrieved 10 July 2009. 
  8. ^ The London Gazette: no. 59485. p. 13181. 12 July 2010.
  9. ^ "Helen Liddell goes to the Lords". BBC News Online. 13 July 2010. Archived from the original on 16 July 2010. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Torrance, David, The Scottish Secretaries (Birlinn 2006)

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
John Smith
Member of Parliament for Monklands East
19941997
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Airdrie and Shotts
19972005
Succeeded by
John Reid
Political offices
Preceded by
Angela Knight
Economic Secretary to the Treasury
1997–1998
Succeeded by
Patricia Hewitt
Preceded by
John Reid
Secretary of State for Scotland
2001–2003
Succeeded by
Alistair Darling
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
The Lord Goodlad
British High Commissioner to Australia
2005–2009
Succeeded by
The Baroness Amos