Meet Malcolm Bruce: Part 2: International Development and those Euro elections

malcolm-bruce-2After his surprise election as Deputy Leader last week, I caught up with Malcolm Bruce, someone who is well known to us in Scotland but not so much to the rest of the party. The first part of the interview, where talks about Liberal Democrat achievements in government, what he can bring to the Deputy Leader role and on Scottish independence, was published last week.

Malcolm has been Chair of the Commons Select Committee on International Development since 2005. After years of economic portfolios, including Trade and Industry, the Treasury itself and Environment, he branched off in a new direction. He had always been interested in the principles but didn’t know much about the practice:

 Like anybody else I’ve always supported development work and believed it was right and proper that we should make a contribution to narrow the gap between poorer and richer countries, and tackle poverty in the poorest countries not least because our imperial legacy gave us an additional responsibility to try and ensure that places we’d exploited and engaged in the past prospered. But as you know all my portfolios were economically orientated. I was hesitant at first to take on international development because I wasn’t sure I had the detailed knowledge of engagement to support it but was encouraged by friends and colleagues that my economic knowledge would be a useful thing to bring to it.

I already had dealings with the EU, IMF, WTO, World Bank which were highly relevant. I’ve learnt a lot in the job and what I bring to bear is I want to know what works, how we underwrite success, what the dangers are and that we try to deliver measurable results and outcomes. so you can say we’ve achieved things. I think the UK has done a fantastic amount now.  It’s been a fascinating role to have been able to play a part in and to have visited places I’d never have expected to get to. I’ve been all over sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia over the past 8 and a half years and that’s been a really enlightening experience.

What, I wondered, had affected him most:

What absolute poverty looks like. People dying from water or lack of medication or food. The uplifting side, though, is being able to see what works, when you see whether it’s microfinance, good health delivery or how a road improvement eases access to markets and how it transforms lives.

There’s the frustration of corruption, poor leadership that creates the divide between people who have real needs and people who are exploiting them. It’s about trying to get the leadership to share responsibility for getting people out of poverty. There’s a huge satisfaction when it works.

Malcolm has always been switched on to the idea of getting more women standing as candidates and elected as MPs and has strongly encouraged women to go for approval, selection and election. Last week his own constituency selected Christine Jardine as PPC, and we have selected women in 5 out of the 6 where Liberal Democrat MPs are standing down. How do we make sure, I asked, that Christine and the others get elected:

They are good strong candidates. We have to give them all the support in the constituencies to get our message across. We’ve put forward good candidates who can balance the party. We are all conscious that the parliamentary party is very male dominated and we need to change that over time.  I will do my best to get Christine Jardine elected in my seat and I’m sure my colleagues who are standing down will do the same in their seats. We need to encourage women to stand and then give them all the support when they do.

We need strong liberal voices in Europe to deliver for UK

But before we even get to the General Election, there’s the challenge of the Euros. How are we going to get through that one?

The first basic message to your readers is that we have to fight Euros like a General Election which, to be honest, we haven’t done in the past. We have to identify our voters and get them out. People need to understand they need to vote to get Lib Dem representation. Actually, we need Liberal Democrats in Europe, sane sensible voices who can deliver for the UK. We’ve had people like Sharon Bowles  playing a huge role in the economic aspect, we’ve had George Lyon speaking out on agriculture reform. We’ve had serous players who have been influential.

Tories threaten our membership. There’s plenty room for reform and criticism but leaving the EU would dramatically reduce Britain’s influence in the world. The SNP are raising this contradictory policy of fragmenting EU wile wanting to be a member of it. They are trying to join an organisation they are trying to weaken.

We saw over the weekend that Malcolm is quite a combative asset out there on the media. Nick Clegg would be well advised to get Malcolm out there more often and also to listen to what he says behind the scenes.

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

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One Comment

  • Yes I have been impressed with Malcolm Bruce out in the media. I still do not understand the logic of selecting a male who is standing down in 2015 to be the Deputy Party Leader … but he is eminently a good guy.

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