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Motion of Condolence

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 20th November 2013.

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Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

Yesterday at the service at Dalgety Bay we sang the hymn “Will Your Anchor Hold”. The refrain was particularly apt. It talked about anchors that keep the soul

“Steadfast and sure while the billows roll,

Fastened to the rock which cannot move,

Grounded firm”.

That summed up Helen Eadie extremely well. She was very firm. No matter what happened around her, she was determined to carry on and achieve what she had set out to achieve.

I shared a constituency with Helen for four years, and I saw at first hand the quality of service that she provided to her constituents. It was therefore no surprise when I turned up—early, I thought—at the service at Dalgety Bay and found that the hall was already packed. There were several rooms to go into, and people were standing outside. To me, that showed the respect that people in the constituency and in the Labour Party had for her. She attracted the great and good of the Labour Party, with a former Prime Minister making a tribute and her friend Baroness Ramsay making such a personal contribution to the service. We also had Cathy Peattie singing a beautiful song and members of her family doing a reading during the service. That showed that she had so many dimensions to her life, and there was clear affection from her constituents.

Like Ruth Davidson and many others, I feared Helen Eadie. It was not a secret that she did not really like Liberal Democrats. She did not like Jim Tolson—[Laughter.] Now, now. I do not think that she liked me too often, or certainly not my views on proportional representation, and I do not think that she was the greatest fan of the coalition between the Liberal Democrats and Labour, and she certainly let me know it. In what I think was her last speech in the Parliament, she accused me of several things, but the very next day she was out being kind and warm and smiling, with that huge grin that immediately put people at ease. She was able to separate the personal from the political. Some of us find that hard, because we have great passion for our politics, but not Helen—she could separate the two.

I remember once campaigning in Cardenden in the Glenrothes by-election when it was bucketing with rain. A car screeched to a halt, and I saw Bob Eadie in the driving seat, then Helen bounced out to berate me about my latest misdemeanour in the constituency. However, the very next day, she had a big smile and a kind heart—she recognised that we were politicians together and we had a battle together.

Helen was colourful. I have laughed many times and so fondly at some of her enterprises, such as her demand about the Equal Opportunities Committee and her escapade in Cowdenbeath when she challenged young people on an estate, managed to escape and then called for a curfew in Cowdenbeath. She had a one-woman campaign to ban the amber traffic light to bring Scotland in line with Bulgaria, which she loved so much. She was not afraid of sticking out, saying different things and being colourful. We need colourful politicians like Helen, as they contribute so much.

Helen was clearly a socialist. I am not a socialist, but her commitment to socialism inspired me. She was never cynical at all, and she always believed and was optimistic. She was driven, passionate and optimistic and she cared for her constituents. I saw that at first hand as an MP in the constituency that we shared—she was often there before me on issues. She cared and she delivered results. She was a warm personality, with that huge big grin of hers.

Helen, today, we are celebrating your life. This is about you and, if you are watching, I hope that you appreciate it.