End of an era as Matthew Clark leaves Holyrood

When I first arrived back in Scotland in 2000, Matthew Clark worked in the Lib Dem staff pool in the Scottish Parliament, then deputy to a certain Willie Rennie. He went on to serve as a senior special adviser in those happy days of the Lib Dem/Labour coalition. Out of Government, he became Chief of Staff to the Lib Dem Group, a role he’s held since 2007.

He actually started out as a very young councillor in Southampton and he and Willie first met at the Christchurch by-election where Willie was the campaign manager and Matthew had the job of developing the railway survey. In 1993 he became, at he age of just 25, chair of the Hampshire Police Authority.

I can’t quite believe that I’m about to go to his leaving do. He’s decided that he’s going to retire – and, after 6 Scottish Parliament elections, 2 referendums, and 6 General elections, all of which he’s had a major role in producing our manifestos and messages for, he certainly deserves a break.

I’m struggling to imagine how the party will cope without him. They say nobody’s indispensable, but he might well be the exception that proves the rule.  He knows pretty much everything there is to know about Scottish politics.

I just marvel at the way he brings so many disparate sources of information together and makes coherent messages out of them. He’s been a total powerhouse of policy, assisting on every major policy initiative and pulling together things like Menzies Campbell’s commission on Federalism, and its predecessor the Steel Commission back in the day.

As Sheila Ritchie says below, he is not shy about tearing a strip off you if he thinks you are wrong. He’s done that to me a couple of times when I’ve richly deserved it.

He is the most generous and hilarious person and an absolutely brilliant cook. Lentil and banana salad sounds like it should be all kinds of wrong. Not in his hands – absolutely delicious.

Actually now I’m wondering if he shouldn’t just go on Masterchef now he has the time.

Anyway, the whole Scottish Party is going to miss him heaps. He has, however, created a brilliant team in our pool. I did a fair few hustings during the Scottish election and the support I got from them was outstanding. I always felt confident and prepared.

Scottish Party Convener Sheila Ritchie had this to say about Matthew:

Matthew is my friend. He has a brain the size of a planet and has been the repository of the party’s institutional knowledge for decades.

He is kind, and firm, and he doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Being a fool, and certainly not in his intellectual league, there have been occasions when he has not suffered me.

But he has always been there for me, as Convenor, as candidate, as MEP, and for anyone in the Party who needed him.

We owe him a huge debt, which we probably can never repay.

The Scottish Lib Dems’ loss is the world’s of cricket, gin, orienteering, sailing and cooking’s gain. Good luck to Matthew in all he does. He will succeed, whatever he does.

 

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

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