Heartfelt tributes to Elspeth Campbell

I was so sad to hear that Elspeth Campbell, wife of former Lib Dem Leader Menzies Campbell for just a week short of 53 years, died yesterday morning.

His tribute to her had me in bits:

After more than 50 years of marriage, my bright, beautiful and witty Elspeth has gone.

She was my constant political companion, always my encouragement and forever my first line of defence.

When I had doubts about the leadership of the Liberal Democrats her advice was clear, she said “never say never.

She was renowned for her hosting of political Sunday lunches which often lasted well into the evening.

Her passion for politics, her support of me and her love of her family will be very much missed.

Anyone lucky enough to have been invited for lunch at their house were in for a treat. Great food and brilliant chat. Elspeth had an office in Scottish Lib Dem HQ for many years where she was a unique and sparkling presence. She was unfailingly kind and would have us in stitches with funny stories. We all loved her.

She did love to smoke and when the smoking ban came in  in 2006, it’s fair to say she was not a fan.

When you asked her how Ming was doing, her face would light up. Those two were an absolutely perfect match and I am sure all our hearts go out to him. They were married within three months of meeting back in 1970. I remember how worried we all were when Ming had Lymphoma back in 2002.

Alistair Carmichael paid a really lovely tribute to her on Facebook which he’s given me permission to reproduce here:

I have never smoked cigarettes and never really been tempted to. One of the few things that might have made me want to was the chance that it would have brought me into more regular contact with Elspeth Campbell. She was a force of nature and one of a kind.

I first met her in 1983 when Ming was standing for rector of Glasgow University.

I was waiting to hear him speak in a GUU debate but had taken myself up into the public gallery where I could eat my takeaway pakora which I was washing down with a pint of Tennent’s Lager.

She appeared at my elbow and looked at my pakora asking, “What is this?” She may have been accustomed to be higher class of cuisine than was available on Gibson St in Glasgow. I explained what it was and that you dipped the pakora in the sauce which she duly did. “Gosh that’s hot!” She exclaimed and, considering further invitation unnecessary, she proceeded to neck about a quarter of my pint.

Many people thought of her as a very grand and slightly imposing character but for me she has always been the woman who shared my pakora and nicked my pint.

From that moment on I could never refuse her anything, even if I should have done so quite sensibly more than once. Once you got to know her she was a warm, funny, clever, determined woman who was utterly besotted with and devoted to Ming, her soulmate. She was also fiercely loyal to her friends in good times and bad.

I shall miss her enormously and I can only imagine how bereft Ming and the rest of her family must be tonight.

There is a new star in heaven tonight and you can recognise it from all the others as it shines through a gentle, very classy haze of smoke.

Other senior Liberal Democrats have paid tribute to Elspeth:

Wendy Chanberlain, now MP for Ming’s old seat of North East Fife, said:

I was deeply saddened to be told that Elspeth passed away today. My thoughts and sincere condolences are with Elspeth’s family and especially with Ming, with whom she shared so many years of marriage.

Elspeth was a kind and generous person, known to and loved by many of us within the Scottish Liberal Democrats in North East Fife and beyond. I will treasure the memory of the time I spent with her both prior to and since my election.

I know this has come as a shock to many people who knew Elspeth in North East Fife from Ming’s time as MP. She will be sorely missed by many.

Scottish Lib Dem Leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said:

We have lost a much loved member of the ⁦@scotlibdems family today. Elspeth brought levity and laughter to every room she entered. My thoughts are with Ming and the family at this difficult time.

Elspeth will always be remembered with affection. We will miss her warmth, her generosity and her mischievous sense of humour. I’m sure that all our readers will want to send their love and sympathy to Ming and all her family.

Please feel free to share your memories of Elspeth in the comments.


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

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  • Maddy Planche 6th Jun '23 - 12:29pm

    I only ever had one tiny interaction with Elspeth.

    It was during the GE 2019 when I had just started a job with the party. It was my first ever political experience and I felt very out of my depth and was constantly worried about making mistakes.

    One such mistake came when I was phone-banking for volunteers and having not recognised the name, I rang Elspeth and very earnestly asked whether she and her husband would consider volunteering for the party.

    She very easily could have chided me for my blaring lack of background knowledge about how her and Ming’s importance to the party.

    Instead, without the faintest air of self-importance she simply remarked that they were getting older, and that her husband did “a bit for the party back in the day.” In hindsight, I see quite what an understatement that was.

    She asked whether I was new and when I said I was, she asked who was currently working at Clifton Terrace and suggested names of helpful people. She went on to wish me the best and good luck for my Lib Dem journey.

    Of course, when I relayed this phone call to my colleagues, they all burst out in fits of laughter and pointed to Ming’s photo (hanging in the room we were currently in) to show who I had just rang.

    I will always remember that kindness that she showed me, it was clearly the mark of a truly wonderful character.

  • A great lady, and daughter of a great and extremely brave father.

  • Gavin Grant 6th Jun '23 - 5:07pm

    I had the pleasure & privilege of doing some voluntary work for Ming when he became our Party Leader. Elspeth was always at his side, always kind but also always clear in her sharp mind as to how things should be & what should be said. My heart and best wishes go out to Ming, family & friends at this very sad time.

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