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Transport is consolation prize for Liddell

LABOUR THIS WEEK changed transport ministers for the second time in less than a year following the promotion of John Reid to Scottish Secretary.

Reid moves up after Donald Dewar resigned as Secretary of State for Scotland to become Scotland's First Minister.

Reid is replaced as Minister of State for Transport by Helen Liddell, who will be Labour's third transport minister since the May 1997 election.

As Dewar's deputy she was widely tipped to take over from him. She is thought to have been offered the transport job, which involves attending cabinet meetings, as a consolation.

Before working at the Scottish Office, Liddell was Economic Secretary at the Treasury. In this post, Liddell, herself a Mirror Group pensioner, won a reputation for championing consumers who had been mis-sold pensions in the early 1980s.

Her tough-talking reputation has drawn comparisons to Margaret Thatcher. Soon after taking up her Treasury post she hauled pension fund executives over the coals over pension mis-selling.

Liddell has no obvious transport interests although she is a supporter of Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, for whom she voted in the 1994 Labour deputy leadership election. She voted for Tony Blair in the same year's leadership election.

Liddell's background is in economics and journalism and she counts cooking, hill walking, music and writing as her main interests. In 1990 she published Elite, described as a semi-erotic novel.

Liddell won her parliamentary seat when she succeeded former Labour leader John Smith as MP for Airdrie and Shotts in east Glasgow. The constituency was created just after Smith's death in 1994 and includes his old Monklands East seat.

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