Helen Lawrie Liddell (born 6 December 1950, in
Coatbridge, Scotland) is a British politician, was MP for Monklands East, then for Airdrie and Shotts from 1994 to 2005, and is British High Commissioner to Australia. She is officially titled The Rt. Hon. Mrs Helen Liddell.
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 Scotlandand also made way for as MP for Airdrie and Shotts. She gained a BA in [http://www.strath.ac.uk/economics Economics] from the University of Strathclyde. She is a member of the Labour Party and was the first female general secretaryof the Scottish Labour Party at the age of 26 from 1977-8.
She contested East Fife in October 1974. A former
BBC Scotlandeconomics journalist from 1976-7 and aide to the late Robert Maxwell, famously following him on one occasion in to a Gents' toilet while being recorded by a TV crew, 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 Scotlandfrom 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 SNP). In addition she angered the monks of Buckfast Abbeywhen she called on them to stop selling Buckfast Tonic Winein Scotland. She was also dubbed "Minister for Monarch of the Glen" (see [http://politics.guardian.co.uk/interviews/story/0,11660,883219,00.html] ) after several visits to the set of the hit BBC series.
The disclosure that she fitted French lessons in to her ministerial diary (see [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2002/02/06/dl0605.xml] ) raised questions about the relevance of Scottish Secretary's job post-devolution: it was abolished as a full-time position in 2003. She took up appointment as (see [http://www.guardian.co.uk/australia/story/0,12070,1184698,00.html] ) the UK's
High Commissionerto Australia in the summer of 2005 - a rare political appointment to a post normally reserved for career diplomats.
Like the majority of former Cabinet ministers, she remains a member of the Privy Council.
She married Alistair Liddell in 1972 with a son and daughter.
*Torrance, David, "The Scottish Secretaries" (Birlinn 2006)
* [http://politics.guardian.co.uk/person/0,9290,-3120,00.html Guardian Politics Ask Aristotle - Helen Liddell]
* [http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/?pid=10360 TheyWorkForYou.com - Helen Liddell MP]
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