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Helen Lawrie Liddell, Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke, PC (born 6 December 1950) is a British Labour Party politician who served as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Monklands East from 1994 to 1997, and then for Airdrie and Shotts until 2005.

The Baroness of Coatdyke

Official portrait of Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke crop 2.jpg
British High Commissioner to Australia
In office
1 September 2005 – 1 October 2009
MonarchElizabeth II
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Gordon Brown
Preceded byThe Lord Goodlad
Succeeded byThe Baroness Amos
Secretary of State for Scotland
In office
24 January 2001 – 12 June 2003
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byJohn Reid
Succeeded byAlistair Darling
Minister of State for Trade and Industry
In office
29 July 1999 – 24 January 2001
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byJohn Battle
Succeeded byPeter Hain
Minister of State for Transport
In office
17 May 1999 – 29 July 1999
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byJohn Reid
Succeeded byThe Lord Macdonald of Tradeston
Minister of State for Scotland
In office
27 July 1998 – 17 May 1999
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byBrian Wilson
Succeeded byBrian Wilson
Economic Secretary to the Treasury
In office
3 May 1997 – 27 July 1998
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byAngela Knight
Succeeded byPatricia Hewitt
Member of Parliament
for Airdrie and Shotts
Monklands East (1994–1997)
In office
30 June 1994 – 11 April 2005
Preceded byJohn Smith
Succeeded byJohn Reid
Personal details
Born (1950-12-06) 6 December 1950 (age 68)
Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire, Scotland
Political partyLabour
Alistair Handerson Liddell (m. 1972)
MotherBridget Lawrie Reilly
FatherHugh Reilly[1]
Alma materUniversity of Strathclyde

Liddell then became the British High Commissioner to Australia until 2009, having previously been appointed 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 created a Life Peer.[2]


Early lifeEdit

Liddell was born Helen Lawrie Reilly, and was the daughter of a Catholic father[3] 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 1977–78.

Early careerEdit

A former BBC Scotland economics journalist from 1976–77, Liddell has taken flak for her closeness to media proprietor Robert Maxwell. 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.[4]

After Maxwell's disgrace she tried to distance herself from him claiming that she had never worked for Maxwell.[5]

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

Parliamentary careerEdit

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.[6]

She was Secretary of State for Scotland from 2001–03, a position whose powers had been transferred to the Scottish Executive after devolution in 1999. In addition, she angered the monks of Buckfast Abbey when she called on them to stop selling Buckfast in Scotland. She was dubbed Minister for Monarch of the Glen[7] 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[8] 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 politicsEdit

She took up appointment as[9] British High Commissioner to Australia in the summer of 2005. She was succeeded in the role by Valerie, Baroness Amos in October 2009.[10]

She was created a Life Peer on 7 July 2010 taking the title Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke, of Airdrie in the County of Lanarkshire,[11] six days later becoming a House of Lords member where she sits till this day.[12] 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.[13]

Personal lifeEdit

She married Alistair Liddell in 1972; they have one son and one daughter.[14]


  1. ^ Publications, Europa (2003). The International Who's Who 2004. Psychology Press. p. 1004. ISBN 9781857432176.
  2. ^ "Peerages, honours and appointments". 10 Downing Street. 28 May 2010. Archived from the original on 1 June 2010. Retrieved 24 June 2010.
  3. ^ "Helen's secret shocks the Pope". The Daily Telegraph.
  4. ^ "Business News". Coventry Telegraph. 30 March 2001. Archived from the original on 23 July 2011.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ "Helen Liddell Appouinted to Transport Minister Post", Local Government Chronicle, 19 May 1999
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ "Helen Do-little". The Daily Telegraph. London. 6 February 2002. Archived from the original on 22 March 2007. Retrieved 4 May 2010.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ "Change of British High Commissioner to Australia" (Press release). British High Commission, Canberra. 3 July 2009. Archived from the original on 31 August 2011. Retrieved 10 July 2009.
  11. ^ "No. 59485". The London Gazette. 12 July 2010. p. 13181.
  12. ^ "Helen Liddell goes to the Lords". BBC News Online. 13 July 2010. Archived from the original on 16 July 2010.
  13. ^ Rt Hon Lord Philip, Rt Hon the Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, Rt Hon the Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke, Rt Hon Malcolm Bruce MP (13 July 2011). "The Mull of Kintyre Review" (PDF). House of Commons. ISBN 978-0-1029-5237-7. Archived from the original (PDF) on 31 May 2016. Retrieved 13 July 2011 – via The Stationery Office.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  14. ^ Debrett's People of Today[permanent dead link]

Further readingEdit

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

External linksEdit