Helen Liddell in the Press

Ah'm oot o' stinkin Scotland agin. Its Bluddy Magic ye ken!.

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Arduous task for Liddell

by BENEDICT BROGAN, Political Editor

HELEN Liddell was last night beginning the arduous task of getting her head around an unfamiliar and unexpected new brief. The daughter of a Lanarkshire bus driver, she has been made the first woman Transport Minister since Barbara Castle.

The Airdrie and Shotts MP attracts as many enemies as she does promotions. A year ago, she was just a junior Minister at the Treasury; now she presides over 15,000 officials running transport in England and Wales, and has a seat in the Cabinet.

Whatever her relief at being back in the Westminster mainstream, she will be disappointed by the last-minute change of plans that saw her expectations of securing the reduced Scottish seat in the Cabinet dashed by a decision to give the job to John Reid.

Her popularity with the high-fliers of the Treasury, who admired the ease with which she mastered complicated briefs, did not travel well to Scotland.

Given the impossible task of bashing the SNP and the teachers in her twin role as Education Minister and campaign director, she clashed immediately with others at Labour HQ and became the subject of constant whisperings.

A former BBC journalist, Labour party general secretary, and Mirror Group executive under Robert Maxwell, she knows all about back-stabbing and revenge. It will take all her skills to contend with the wrath of her new boss, John Prescott, who sources suggest is furious at having another Blairite with a sure touch nippng at his heels. - May 18 1999