Helen Liddell in the Press

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Cool reception as Ice Maiden returns


HELEN Liddell's return to Scottish politics to head Labour's battle for control of the Scottish Parliament met with a chorus of hostility last night from Opposition parties.

The Scottish Tories said Mrs Liddell's arrival marked a dark day for Scotland. "Her ice-maiden exterior betrays a record of failure in Scottish politics. During the Monklands East by-election campaign, she made numerous grand promises that she would clean up the mess surrounding her Labour colleagues in Monklands District Council. However, she has signally failed to keep that pledge as witness today by the depths of the crisis facing the North Lanarkshire authority - the son of Monklands," said party chairman Raymond Robertson.

"Her false promises to clean up local government sleaze and incompetence in her area should have permanently ruled her out of a Government post in Scotland.

"If she is unable to clean up the mess in her own back yard, how on earth is she going to cope with the wider remit of a Scottish Office ministry?

"If Tony Blair believes this move will help his party regain popularity in Scotland, he had better think again. It is new policies, not discredited politicians, which are needed if Labour are to have any hope of reconnecting with the Scottish people."

Mr Robertson described Brian Wilson's departure from the Scottish Office as "good riddance to bad rubbish" and he condemned Mr Wilson's "inept and damaging" student tuition fees policy. "While most Scots will be delighted to see the back of bungling Brian, we must also give our condolences to the Department of Trade and Industry where Mr Wilson will undoubtedly build on his hapless reputation."

Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP recalled reports of Mrs Liddell being recalled "kicking and screaming" to Scotland and others of Mr Wilson not wanting to leave Scotland. "This illustrates that New Labour are a London-controlled party, out of touch with Scotland," she said.

Ms Sturgeon said Mrs Liddell was being ordered home to do a job for Tony Blair, not for Scotland. "This Scottish Office reshuffle is born out of panic and won't work. Its only good aspect is that we will see the back of Brian Wilson, who must be one of the worst Ministers ever."

Mr Blair was making a big mistake sending London-based ministers to Scotland with no intention of standing for the Scottish Parliament, she said. She described Mrs Liddell and Mr Blair as irrelevant to the elections next year. "The days are over of the Scottish people being told what to do by politicians whose primary interest is sitting round the Cabinet table in London."

Michael Moore, campaigns chairman of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said Mr Wilson's departure would be met with few tears because his tenure would forever be associated with unpopular tuition fees and persistent undermining of the distinctive Scottish education system.

He added: "The arrival of Helen Liddell is clearly aimed at mounting more negative attacks on the SNP. But I believe this is a misjudgment by Labour. The Scottish people have had enough of that kind of politics. It was not what they voted for in the referendum last year and it will do Labour no good. The Liberal Democrats will continue to argue our case positively."- July 29