From the fourth estate to Westminster with Christine Jardine


Former Deeside Piper editor, Christine Jardine, has been confirmed as the Liberal Democrat candidate for the Gordon seat in 2015.

Currently held by Sir Malcolm Bruce, Gordon has been a Liberal Democrat seat since 1983.

As a journalist and businesswoman, Christine has worked in Inverness, Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Her editorship at the Piper began in 1987 in the paper’s early days.

As a student, she had the benefit of a grant when she gained her honours degree from Glasgow University.

We caught up for a chat about the papers, politics and parliament.

DEESIDE PIPER: What do you hope to achieve if voted for by the people of Gordon?

CHRISTINE JARDINE: Over the last 30 years, Malcolm has been a strong voice for the people of Gordon and that is what I would want to be as well. For both the urban and rural communities. I believe rural communities need a strong voice particularly at the moment. The most important thing is listening to what is important to the people of Gordon and, if you like, what I aim to achieve if I am elected after 2015 will be dictated by what they want me to achieve

If I was the MP at the end of five years, I would hope that I’d continue Malcolm’s work and had worked hard for the oil industry-won investment for the North-east, particularly in infrastructure and being a strong voice in getting our road and transport network improved. What would be important to me as an MP would be making sure that I work for the people and what they want to happen. I would hate to think after however many years that people felt “We voted for her but what has she done for us.”

DP: How do you think the Liberal democrats have done in the Coalition?

Well, if you just look at the Coalition’s record lower taxes, that was one of our four main manifesto pledges. We have delivered on that and also raising pensions, again a manifesto pledge. The green investment plan, which has already begun to invest in projects in Scotland, that was a main plank of our manifesto and we have delivered on that. The AV referendum, we delivered on that, Lords reform, we tried to deliver on but the Tories blocked it. There were policies the Tories wanted, which they have not been able to deliver because, as part of the Coalition agreement, they were blocked. You don’t have to take my word for it David Cameron has been talking about his little black book, containing a list of things they weren’t allowed to do. One of them, I know for a fact, was another swathe of welfare cuts, which didn’t happen.

I also think it is interesting that now the Tories are trying to claim credit for things that they said wasn’t possible. David Cameron said you could never raise the income tax threshold- well its been done.

We are a party of government now and we have proved that we can deliver on policies. Policies we have been delivering at a local level for a long time and for the last four years have been doing so nationally as well.

DP:Could the Lib Dems maintain a majority government?

I think what we have got in British politics is a different set up to what we have had in the past with previous governments. We have got more of a balance which I think is healthier, rather than swinging from left to right and we are in the middle. I think people see us as the party of stability in the middle, we are reasonable and find compromise, and we have worked with all main political parties in different areas of government.

The SNP’s recent child care policy is a very good example. It is something that the Liberal Democrats introduced across the rest of the UK and Willie Rennie was pushing for the Scottish government to do. So then the SNP brought out the White Paper saying: We can provide childcare after independence and we said “well no actually you can do it now. I think people see us as being in the middle and being able to balance to work for both a fairer society and a stronger economy while anchoring whoever we work with to the middle ground.

DP:When you ran for the Aberdeen Donside election unsuccessfully, what lessons did you learn?

I don’t think it was unsuccessful. It depends how you measure success. In the Donside by election we increased both our vote and percentage of the vote, which shows us that people in that part of Aberdeen do still want Liberal Democrat representation. We also weakened the SNP a bit. I think Donside wakened them up to the fact that they can’t take those votes for granted anymore.

DP: What do you think of the relationship between government and media in general?

It should always be difficult. The fourth estate’s job I remember learning about at university is to scrutinise and challenge.

Teaching journalism, I always say to the students, remember- your job is to challenge everything you have to be equitable, but equitable in that you make everybody justify what they say and what they do. So I don’t think the job of the media is to make government’s job easy. It has to scrutinise on behalf of the people, we need open government, we need MPs to challenge each other in the house but we also need the media to challenge what we do.

Though I am referred to as a former journalist- I am a journalist, I’ve been one too long to be a former journalist but as an industry we have to look at ourselves and make sure we get it right- but that should never mean we give government an easy time.

DP: How have your skills as a journalist prepared you for government?

They were very useful to me when I was a special advisor. I worked in media for so long and understood how media worked. Journalists actually have one thing in common with politicians and that’s communication - it is about listening to people, hearing what they say and working on it. People need to be important. The single most important thing to me is people.

DP: What do you think the result of the independence referendum will be?

I think talking to people, particularly around Gordon and other parts of the North-east, that there is no real appetite for independence. I also think people feel they do not know what it would actually mean. What they are getting from the Yes campaign is a whole lot of promises - an election manifesto, rather than a plan. In short I think people are going to vote No. But I don’t think we should take that for granted. I hope people are going to vote No and I will keep working for that but not take for granted that that is going to happen.

DP: What of Sir Malcolm’s appointment as deputy leader?

He is hugely popular within the Lib Dems.

When I was a member of Nick Clegg’s team down in Westminster, I knew Malcolm was hugely respected here and it was nice to see how well respected he was - not just within the party but the leadership of the party- and we’ve seen that reflected in the decision.

I think people voted for him because he has such a good record as an MP standing up for the North-east- he is a Liberal to the tips of his fingers and toes, he is a very trustworthy and reasonable man.

He is more than a safe pair of hands. Malcolm has been a leading figure in the party for a long time and a lot of people have an awful lot of respect for him and that is what you need from a deputy leader.