Clegg and Rennie congratulate Bruce and Kennedy on 30 years in Parliament

David Steel at Malcolm Bruce's anniversary dinnerTwo senior  Liberal Democrat parliamentarians have been celebrating 30 years representing their constituencies in parliament. Sir Malcolm Bruce MP for Gordon and Charles Kennedy MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber both thanked constituents and Liberal Democrat party members this weekend for their support.

They have both marked the occasion with events in their constituencies. I travelled to Inverurie on Friday to attend a dinner in honour of Malcolm. His wife Rosemary had organised a few surprise guests for him too. The evening had no fewer than nine speeches, with each course being punctuated by a little humorous anecdote, or inter-course speech as Master of Ceremonies Nicol Stephen put it.

The main speech of the evening was made by Lord (David) Steel who praised Malcolm’s role on the Constitutional Convention which led to the Scottish Parliament. He said that Malcolm had played a crucial role in developing the consensus between the parties. He also used a form of words I think we should use more when we talk about home rule:

The principle of home rule is different from devolution. Under home rule, sovereignty lies with the Scottish people and we decide when it is sensible to give powers to the centre on issues like foreign affairs and defence.

He added that he wanted to see the consensus of 90s rebuilt to increase Holyrood’s powers.

Malcolm Bruce 30th anniversary dinnerMalcolm himself could have used his speech in reply to talk about all the famous people he’d met in 30 years and all the high profile things he’d done. Instead he told some stories of crises which had hit his constituency and the people within it. In Winter of 1983, the area was hit by a hellish snow storm which led to 20,000 people being without electricity for up to 2 weeks. He described how his office became the unofficial point of contact for everyone who didn’t have power.

During the BSE crisis, 1000 people were laid off in the space of a week and Malcolm told how he worked together with the Minister at the time to help people affected.

He then described his quest to help Sandra Gregory, a constituent held in Thailand for a drugs offence. She had initially been sentenced to death, but his intervention helped this to be commuted to 25 years in prison and he later supported her successful application for a royal pardon. He said he’d taken some criticism for trying to take her case forward, but he felt strongly that it was his role to ensure that the best possible case was referred to the authorities.

Elected at a time when there was no social media, no email and letters were prepared on a golf ball typewriter, Malcolm described how he was often dictating casework letters at 4am. He missed Geoffrey Howe’s dramatic resignation statement  in 1990 because he was doing the same.

He talked about his current work as chair of the International Development Select Committee:

We’ve just eaten some very nice food but one billion people go to bed hungry every single day. You can’t equate any kind of poverty in this country to some parts of Africa. It’s been a huge privilege to shine torches into these areas.

Finally, he came up with a phrase that so well sums up why Scotland needs to stay in the UK:

I’m so proud to be Scottish but I don’t want to lose what gives us a bigger piece of the world.

Sadly, I didn’t make it to the Kennedy dinner in Dingwall last night where Lord Jim Wallace spoke, but I will be hunting down photos and reports from the event for you.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie, who attended both events, said:

I am immensely proud that the Liberal Democrats have been represented both locally and nationally with two outstanding politicians of our age. It is not an exaggeration to say that Charles and Malcolm have shaped the country with their ideas and character.

Nick Clegg added his congratulations:

 Charles and Malcolm are leading advocates of the progressive values and policies of the Liberal Democrats and I congratulate them on celebrating 30 years as an MP.

Both have tirelessly campaigned on local issues putting their commitment to their constituents first. Popular locally, they are also both hugely popular and respected figures in British politics and have used their position to make a stand on issues such as Iraq and international development.

They have achieved so much in their three decades in Scottish and British politics of which they, and all Liberal Democrats, are rightly proud.

These two Scots have vastly enriched the Liberal Democrats both in Scotland and the UK over the last 3 decades. We all owe them our thanks and appreciation.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Andrew Martin 9th Jun '13 - 4:11pm

    I wonder how many other people misread this first time as Rennard!

  • Congratulations to Malcolm and Charles. Wonderful service … in 2 spectacularly beautiful parts of the country. Really hoping we stay as one country!

  • John Heyworth 10th Jun '13 - 9:59am

    Congratulations to them both. 30 years of service to the Party, their constituents, and their countries. Above all congratulations on 30 years of consistancy.

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