Happy 40th Birthday, Alex Cole-Hamilton

Today, Liberal Democrat MSP for Edinburgh Western, Alex Cole-Hamilton turns 40.

I have to confess to being slightly traumatised by this – much more so than by my own imminent Golden Jubilee.

You see, I don’t feel 50. I feel about 28. And I’m in much better shape physically and mentally than I was at 28, so it’s all good here. And the waiter at the Indian last night referred to me as a “young lady.” Even better.

Alex’s big day, though, provides inescapable evidence of the passage of time. I can’t help but remember that I first met him when he was a young lad fresh out of university. Now he’s a 40 year old father of three.

He hides it well, though. He’s probably even more irrepressible now than he was back then.

I’ve asked some of his friends to help me come up with 40 Legendary Alex Moments. Sit down with a cup of tea and enjoy a meander through the life of someone who is guaranteed to bring a smile to whatever is going on. Happy Birthday, Alex:

1. The day in the Summer of 2000 when he walked into the Edinburgh West constituency office to start work for Donald Gorrie MP and Margaret Smith MSP


2. The day I first met him – at the Gyle Centre in 2001 where we both met Charles Kennedy’s recce team for his final stop of the General Election.


3. When he stood against Gordon Brown in 2005 and one of the residents asked, genuinely, if he would become Chancellor if he won.


4. When he put on a weird southern drawl when canvassing for Obama in Virginia in 2008 to stop folk asking constantly where he was from.


5. This wasn’t the first time he had dabbled in a presidential election. In 2004, the Guardian ran an ill-advised project called Operation Clark County. They reckoned that what voters in a swing state really needed was a stream of  letters from Guardianistas imploring them not to vote for George W Bush. Alex embraced this task with his trademark enthusiasm and found himself in the press.


6. Doing a session of canvassing in Craigleith in the run up to the 2016 general election -inadvertently  outside the constituency he was actually fighting.


7. When he took up polling station dog sitting at the General Election in June.


8. In 2011 when most of us would rather hide under the duvet than go canvassing, Alex knocked on thousands of doors in Edinburgh Central in wind, hail, rain and snow.


9. He worked so hard on that campaign that he did a press story about contracting Scurvy through not having time to eat properly.


10. When he lost, he tweeted that if his defeat was the price he had to pay for children not having to be detained for immigration purposes, he accepted it with all his heart.


11. Winning best speaker with an absolute barnstormer in the Charles Kennedy Memorial Debate at Glasgow University in 2015. His speech on the EU was so passionate.


12. Winning “one to watch” at the Herald Scottish Politician of the Year awards in 2016


13. That De Lorean photo shoot during the General Election in June. He swanned around the office in shades and body warmer later.


14, Hoisting a victorious Willie Rennie on his shoulders on the night of the Dunfermline by-election in 2006 in what became one of the most iconic Lib Dem photos ever.

15. The day after Trump was elected in the US, there was a debate on hate crimes. Alex really got to grips with the issue in a horrified yet thoughtful speech.

It is not statesmanlike or diplomatic for a parliamentarian to rail against the victor of such an important international contest, but I feel neither statesmanlike nor diplomatic when it comes to addressing the hate-filled doctrine that has swept much of the continental United States these past 24 hours. It is a doctrine that represents the very antithesis of the Government motion and the amendments that are before us this evening, and it is a doctrine that relies on the demonisation of the other—the threatening outsider. It is a doctrine that plays to the very worst demons of our souls. Seizing on the realities of huge swathes of the American population who, when asked by pollsters, would say, “Folks like me were better off 50 years ago,” Donald Trump’s task was blindingly simple. Find any number of groups among the dispossessed and the marginalised to blame for that. Play to every fear. Stereotype and prejudice, and do so with abandon.

The politics of prejudice represents the very worst tendencies in the conduct of human affairs. It thrives on a primeval reversion to tribe that seeks out weakness, difference and non-conformity and then endeavours to drive them out, to persecute and to malign. We may unite in condemnation of the emergence of that politics in America today, but we would do well to reflect on its existence in these islands as well. If the calamity of last night’s events induces us to answer one challenge in ourselves, it must be the eradication of prejudice wherever it may be found in our nation.

16. The day he was asked to do a tv interview at no notice. He was dressed extremely casually. He swapped his t-shirt for the Chief Exec’s shirt and tie and breezed into the studio a few minutes’ later and gave the interview perfectly calmly.

17. The way he picked himself up after the loss of the Westminster seat in 2015 and plunged relentlessly into his 2016 campaign. One veteran campaigner told me “We were out canvassing in East Craigs in 2015 and I just thought that I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

18. His passionate speech at Pride Edinburgh last month.

19. After a particularly difficult tv interview, when he asked his team “I looked pretty good, right?”

20. That moment when he walked into the count hall at Ingliston, knowing he’d won, in 2016 and everyone wanted a selfie with him.

21. Taking down Donald Trump over his travel ban and Theresa May for inviting the President on a state visit.

Today we march for our brothers and sisters of Islam, but tomorrow it could be the gay community, or rape survivors; the African American community or climate change scientists, whatever the frontier we will hold the line and show Trump, his puppet masters and the watching world that we will not tire we will not sit down we will only resist.Now I’m a Liberal Democrat, but that doesn’t matter today, I’m proud to stand with people of all parties and of none, but I’m going to finish with a message for the prime minister. Theresa May when you clasp hands with this man and offer him the full pomp and majesty of a state visit, you diminish yourself, you diminish the office you hold and you diminish our nation.

22. When he shared on Facebook a Colin Firthesque photo of him, soaked in a white shirt after a downpour while out leafetting.

23. Campaigning against air pollution ACH gas mask

24. His fight to get the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child incorporated into law.

25. The only way I know that Santa Claus is on his way from Edinburgh to Livingston is when I’ve seen the elaborate photos of his escapades in the Cole-Hamilton house posted on Facebook.

26. His compelling, persuasive and relentlessly positive debut Holyrood speech on the EU

27. A 2005 Scottish Lib Dem training event where he compered the quiz and had us in stitches with a series of puns and rhymes based on his co-host, Fraser.

28.. This picture of Alex at the West count last month with his best mate Kevin Lang just sums up what must be oe of the most successful campaiging partnerships in the history of politics:

29. The way he still does a load of delivery bundles because he feels he can’t ask others to do what he isn’t prepared to do himself.

30. Speaking at an anti-Trident rally in Edinburgh way back in 2007 – never afraid to take an independent stance from party policy on a key issue of principle.

31. Getting a wee bit wild with the champagne at the Scottish MPs’ victory press call.


Just a typical Sunday morning to celebrate three new MPs. pic.twitter.com/ZxwnZLZPVU

— Willie Rennie (@willie_rennie) June 11, 2017

32. His ultimately successful campaign to persuade the Scottish Liberal Democrats to adopt policy banning smacking in Scotland. It’s a cause very dear to me. We lost by 9 votes in 2013, but last year eventually won the day.

33. His excellent leadership of the Scottish General Election campaign this year, making sure we had the resources to run the campaign we needed to run and making sensible decisions about our priorities.

34. The moment he was caught on camera looking murderously on during one of Willie Rennie’s speeches in Parliament.

35. And how he retaliated by posting a photo of Willie looking bored during one of his speeches.

36. How he’s always first to offer support if anyone in the team is having  a hard time.

37. That unforgettable moment when he and Christine arrived at the count when we knew she had won.


This picture is everything. Love my @scotlibdems fam 💪👏💏pic.twitter.com/uFWJtaC6Yf

— Daisy Benson (@_DaisyBenson) June 9, 2017

38. How excited he got about the world war II shelter in his campaign headquarters for the 2011 election in Edinburgh Central.

39. When he, his wife Gill and I all absent-mindedly got on the wrong train on the way to a party and ended up back at my house rather than in Fife.

40. His amazing pumpkin carving skills. Who can forget Trumpkin?

Now, because Alex over-delivers, we should too. There is a number 41. And it comes, with his express permission to publish this and attribute it to him, from Alistair Carmichael, our ever patient MP for Orkney and Shetland. He tells us how he fell for a typical Alex stunt:

There is nothing funny about Alex Cole-Hamilton. What he regards as a joke once very nearly put me into cardiac arrest.

During the 2016 Scottish elections he sent a text one morning with what seemed to be a screen grab of a front page of The National running a story about him having been involved in drugs dealing as a teenager.

It was a wildly overdrawn and badly written piece that looked like it had been written by someone who was under the influence of mind altering drugs. It seemed, therefore, to be entirely genuine as a National front page and I took it at face value.

Seeing this on my phone at 7.30 am I confess I panicked and replied telling him to say nothing to anyone, to get his wife and kids out of the house and off to somewhere safe and that he needed legal representation etc.

Anyway, a few texts and much adrenaline later, Mr C-H ‘fessed up that this was an April fool. My,  how we laughed.

Well, not at all, actually. I swear to God that the only thing that saved his life was the fact that there was a few hundred miles between us, including the Pentland Firth. We should celebrate his 40th birthday because, all things considered, it is nothing short of a miracle that he has reached it. If he ever pulls a stunt like that again then we shall have a by-election in Edinburgh Western. I promise you.

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

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.

One Comment

  • Richard Underhill 22nd Jul '17 - 12:10pm

    Be careful, former GM executive Mr De Lorean got locked inside a namesake car.
    Virgin-ia was named after the unmarried Queen Elizabeth.

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