Helen Liddell

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Person.png Helen Liddell  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke.jpg
Born6 December 1950
Coatbridge, United Kingdom
Alma materUniversity of Strathclyde
ReligionRoman Catholicism
Children1 son 1 daughter
SpouseAlistair Liddell
InterestsRobert Maxwell
PartyLabour Party (UK)
British-Scottish Labour politician known to many as 'Robert Maxwell's spy'

Employment.png British High Commissioner to Australia

In office
1 September 2005 - 1 October 2009
Preceded byAlastair Goodlad

Employment.png Secretary of State for Scotland Wikipedia-icon.png

In office
24 January 2001 - 12 June 2003
Succeeded byAlistair Darling

Employment.png UK/Minister of State for Transport

In office
17 May 1999 - 29 July 1999
Preceded byJohn Reid
Succeeded byGus Macdonald

Employment.png Economic Secretary to the Treasury Wikipedia-icon.png

In office
3 May 1997 - 27 July 1998
Succeeded byPatricia Hewitt

Helen Lawrie Liddell, Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke is a British politician and life peer who was Secretary of State for Scotland from 2001 to 2003 and British High Commissioner to Australia from 2005 to 2009. Liddell was close to the media proprietor and Israeli asset Robert Maxwell. Liddell was a member of the Philips inquiry into the suspicious 1994 Scotland RAF Chinook crash.

The Herald described her network: "Liddell has a habit of collecting influential friends. Bernard Donoughue introduced her to the heady circles around 10 Downing Street in the early seventies. Joe Haines, another member of Wilson's kitchen cabinet, was later to put her in touch with Robert Maxwell. Tom McNally, Jim Callaghan's PPS at No 10, was another pal. Donald Dewar, John Smith, the writer and broadcaster Frank Delaney, the journalist Charlie Wilson . . . it's a long and impressive list. Those outwith the fan club say she also knows how to drop people who have outlived their usefulness."[1]

Early life

Liddell was born to a Catholic father[2] and a Protestant mother. 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 who also succeeded her as MP for Airdrie and Shotts.

She graduated as a BA in Economics from the University of Strathclyde and joined the Labour Party, where she became the first female General Secretary of the Scottish Labour Party at the age of 26 from 1977 to 1978.

Early career

A former BBC Scotland economics journalist from 1976 to 1977, Liddell has taken flak for her closeness to media proprietor and Israeli asset Robert Maxwell. The Herald Scotland wrote: "Maxwell looms large in the Liddell legend. Even before the pensions fraud came to light there were those who felt that she had sacrificed her political credibility in accepting the job. She was known to many as Maxwell's spy and rumoured to be in constant contact with Haines."[1]

Working as aide she once followed him on one occasion in to a gents' toilet while being followed by a TV crew. She was also the public affairs director of Maxwell's Scottish Daily Record.[3]

After Maxwell's disgrace she tried to distance herself from him claiming that she had never worked for Maxwell.[4]

Helen Liddell published one novel about women in politics, called Elite (Century, 1990).

Parliamentary career

She contested East Fife at the October 1974 general election.

Liddell was first elected to Parliament in 1994, at the closely contested Monklands East by-election following John Smith's death. She was appointed a Privy Councillor on 27 October 1998.[5]

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.

The disclosure that she was able to work French lessons into her ministerial diary[6] 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

She took up appointment as[7] British High Commissioner to Australia in the summer of 2005. She was succeeded in the role by Valerie, Baroness Amos in October 2009.[8]

On 28 May 2010, it was announced in the Dissolution Honours List that she would be created a life peer.[9] On 7 July, she took the title Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke, of Airdrie in the County of Lanarkshire, six days later becoming a House of Lords member.[10] She is a member of Labour Friends of Israel.[11] In 2010–11 Liddell was a member of the "independent" Philips inquiry into the 1994 Scotland RAF Chinook crash on the Mull of Kintyre, established by the Secretary of State for Defence.[12]