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Sir Walter Menzies Campbell CBE PC QC (born 22 May 1941) is a Britishmarker politician, advocate and retired sprinter. He is Member of Parliament for North East Fife and was Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 2 March 2006 until 15 October 2007.

"Menzies" is a Scottish name, , and originally written , the "z" being a graphic approximation of the (Middle English) yogh ( ) originally found in the name; hence he is often known as "Ming".

Life outside politics

Born in Glasgowmarker, Campbell was educated at Hillhead High School, Glasgow, and the University of Glasgowmarker, graduating with an MA and an LLB. He was elected President of the Glasgow University Liberal Club in 1962, and of the Glasgow University Union 1964-65. He was involved in debating at the Union and with the Dialectic Society, where his contemporaries included former Lord Chancellor Lord Irvine, Donald Dewar and John Smith, who attempted to recruit him for the Labour Party. He later received a scholarship to Stanford Universitymarker, Californiamarker.

A successful sprinter at University, he competed for the Great Britain team in the 200 metres and 4x100 metres relay at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyomarker and captained the Scotland team at the 1966 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Kingston, Jamaicamarker. He also captained the Great Britain athletics team in 1965 and 1966, and held the Britishmarker 100 metres record from 1967 to 1974. At one time he was known as "the fastest white man on the planet", running the 100m in 10.2 seconds twice during 1967.

He qualified as an advocate before he became a politician. He was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1968 and became a Queen's Counsel in 1982. He specialised in planning and licensing law. He ceased to practise as an advocate in 2003, but returned to practice in January 2008 as a member of a chambers made up (uniquely in Scotland, where about 30% of advocates are women) exclusively of men.

Campbell married Elspeth, Lady Grant-Suttie, daughter of Major General Roy Urquhart, in June 1970. They have no children, though she has a child from her previous marriage.

Member of Parliament

Campbell became chairman of the Scottish Liberals in 1975, and was a candidate at various general elections between 1974 and 1983. After three failed attempts, he was finally elected as Member of Parliament, for North East Fife, at the 1987 general election. He was made the Liberal Democrat chief spokesman on foreign affairs and defence in 1992. He considered standing as a candidate to replace Paddy Ashdown as party leader in the 1999 leadership election but ultimately decided against it. He later said that he regretted that decision "for about 10 minutes a day". He was also one of twelve candidates for the position of Speaker when Betty Boothroyd stood down in 2000, but he lost out to Michael Martin.

Campbell was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a form of cancer, in 2002; he underwent a course of intensive chemotherapy before going on to make a full recovery.

Campbell replaced Alan Beith as deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats in February 2003 and on occasion acted as stand-in Leader of the party. He took over in the general election campaign for three days from 12 April 2005 when Charles Kennedy took paternity leave.

Liberal Democrats Frontbenches

In his role as foreign affairs spokesperson, Campbell was prominent in the Liberal Democrat opposition to the 2003 Iraq War, repeatedly arguing that the British government should publish the Attorney General's secret advice on the war's legality and criticising Tony Blair's support for President Bush. Unsympathetic towards what he terms the "visceral anti-Americanism" of some in the anti-war movement, Campbell has noted that: "For more than 60 years we have been engaged in an intimate and rewarding relationship with the United States ... Our two countries are bound together historically by common values and experience. But our relationship should be one of mature partnership, not one of undue deference."

Leader of the Liberal Democrats

On 7 January 2006, Campbell became interim Leader following Kennedy's resignation, before winning the subsequent leadership contest. Despite his relatively advanced age compared to the leaders of the other two main parties, Tony Blair and David Cameron, he started as the front-runner in the 2006 leadership election, backed by more than a third of Lib Dem MPs as well as party notables such as David Steel, Shirley Williams and Paddy Ashdown. As the race drew on it appeared that Chris Huhne, initially the outsider, was rapidly gaining support, and Huhne became the favourite with the bookmakers, but Campbell regained ground.

On 2 March 2006 Campbell was declared leader of the Liberal Democrats after winning the leadership election under the Single Transferable Vote method. The first-round votes placed him well in the lead, at 23,264 to Chris Huhne's 16,691 and Simon Hughes' 12,081. A tearful Simon Hughes was accordingly eliminated and his second-preference votes were split between the two remaining candidates. The final result was Sir Menzies Campbell at 29,697 and Chris Huhne at 21,628 on a 72% membership turnout.

Campbell promoted many younger MPs to his Liberal Democrat Frontbench Team including former MEP Nick Clegg as Home Affairs spokesperson and 26 year old Jo Swinson as Scotlandmarker spokesperson.

A few weeks prior to Campbell's election to the party leadership, the Liberal Democrats won the Dunfermline and West Fifemarker seat from Labour in a by-election. This was viewed as a major victory for Campbell and as a particular blow to then Labour Chancellor Gordon Brown, who lives in the constituency, represents the adjacent seat, and featured prominently in Labour's by-election campaign.

Questions over leadership

However, questions were raised over Campbell's early performances at the weekly Prime Minister's Questions, leading him to declare himself "perfectly confident" that he could fulfil the role of party leader. Campbell regained some ground with the controversy over the US practice of "extraordinary rendition", the case of the NatWest Three, and the conflict in Lebanon.

According to polls published in July 2006, twice as many voters preferred Charles Kennedy as Leader over Campbell, and this led to further criticism of Campbell's leadership. Kennedy however called rumours that he considered challenging for the leadership as "fanciful".

The University of St Andrewsmarker' decision to award an honorary doctorate of law to former President Khatami of Iranmarker sparked some criticism, although as Chancellor he is only titular head and not involved in such decisions. Khatami was elected as President of Iran in 1997 and 2001, both occasions on platforms of social and political reform and a "Dialogue Among Civilizations" that put Khatami significantly at odds with his conservative successor, President Ahmadinejad.

Shortly before Gordon Brown took over as Prime Minister in June 2007, Campbell was invited to a meeting with the then Chancellor of the Exchequer. Brown surprised Campbell by requesting that two Liberal Democrats (Lord Ashdown and Lady Neuberger) join his cabinet. After taking 24 hours to consult and consider, Campbell rejected the offer as unworkable, given the gulf between the parties on issues of foreign policy and civil liberties. Labour leaked news of the meeting to the media - allegedly in order to "spin" Brown's bipartisan credentials - and went behind Campbell to offer the job of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to Ashdown anyway; he turned it down. Critics note that, since devolution, the role of Northern Ireland Secretary is essentially defunct (the incumbent, Shaun Woodward, does not receive a ministerial salary lending weight to claims that the job offer was merely a media-relations exercise. Campbell was accused of naivety and tactical error by agreeing even to think about the proposal.

After intense speculation in the autumn of 2007, Gordon Brown announced there would be no General Election in 2007. Following this announcement, Campbell's leadership again came under question, with some in the party feeling that now the heat was off the time was ripe to get a younger leader potentially more capable of connecting with voters. On 15 October, after an acknowledgement by Campbell's deputy Vince Cable that Campbell's position was "under discussion", the party announced that Campbell would step down as leader.

At the Edinburgh Film Festival in 2007

Resignation of leadership

Campbell resigned as leader of the Liberal Democrats on 15 October 2007. The announcement was made from the steps of Cowley Street by Party President Simon Hughes. Alongside him was deputy Leader Vincent Cable, and they praised Ming's leadership and said the party owed him a debt of gratitude. In his letter of resignation, addressed to Hughes, Campbell stated: "It has become clear that following the Prime Minister’s decision not to hold an election, questions about leadership are getting in the way of further progress by the party". Cable became acting leader of the Liberal Democrats until a leadership election could be held.

Following the resignation then leadership contender Nick Clegg alleged that Campbell had been a victim of ageism throughout his term as party leader saying he had been treated "appallingly" and subject to "barely disguised ageism". Concerns about ageism directed at Campbell from the media had also been raised by the charity Age Concern in September 2006. Gordon Lishman the director of the charity said "the recent media coverage poking fun at Sir Menzies has brought to light the age discrimination that is epidemic in the media and society". Attacking media coverage which seemed to focus on his age Lishman added "clearly the media needs to update its attitudes and get with the times; people are living and working longer and age discrimination is out dated".

Expenses claims

Sir Menzies Campbell reportedly claimed in the region of £10,000 over two years to redesign his flat in London, which included the purchasing of a king-sized bed, scatter cushions and a small flat screen television. Campbell said he believed that the claims were "within the spirit and letter of the rules" as the flat had not been renovated for 20 years.


Campbell's political beliefs can be summarised as those of a moderate social liberal. Unlike Simon Hughes, his erstwhile leadership rival, Campbell's view is that the appropriate role of the state in the economy is limited to correcting market failures and funding essential public services: influenced by Treasury spokesperson Vincent Cable and Environment spokesperson Chris Huhne, Campbell has promoted radical policies to shift taxation away from ‘goods’ such as employment and towards ‘bads’ such as pollution, through a revenue-neutral restructuring of the tax system that maintains the current tax burden whilst lifting two-million low-paid individuals out of income tax altogether.

Campbell's primary area of interest is acknowledged to be foreign policy: he strongly supports multilateral institutions such as the European Union and the United Nations, though argues that the former must reform to become more democratic and the latter must develop new mechanisms for dealing with humanitarian crises. He has also been critical of the what he claims is “disproportionate military action” employed by the Israeli Defence Force in Gazamarker and in Lebanonmarker, contending that Israel’s tactics exacerbate existing tensions and lead to human rights abuses. Though a supporter of US-UK cooperation, Campbell has argued that the Bush-Blair relationship was one-sided and that the Labour government pursued it at the expense of Britain's standing in other international institutions, particularly the EU and UN.

Although never going so far as to advocate direct affirmative action policies (such as Labour’s all-woman shortlists), Campbell has stressed the need for the Liberal Democrats to provide extra support for female, disabled and ethnic minority candidates seeking to contest winnable seats.

In July 2007, Campbell unveiled his radical new tax proposals. These amount to a large shift in the tax burden (certified as revenue-neutral by the non-partisan Institute for Fiscal Studies) away from low- and middle-income earners and onto higher-earners and pollution. This is to be implemented by cutting the basic rate of income tax from 20% to 16%, closing £13.5bn of tax loopholes for high-earners and imposing larger green taxes on polluters. Campbell said of the proposals, "the unacceptable reality is that in Britain today the poorest pay a higher proportion of their income in tax than the super-rich" and that his aim was for "the rich and people with environmentally damaging lifestyles pay a fairer share".


Campbell was appointed CBE in the 1987 New Years Honours List; he became a Privy Counsellor in the 1999 New Year Honours; and he was honoured with a knighthood in the 2004 New Year Honours for "services to Parliamentmarker".

Campbell has honorary degrees from Glasgowmarker and Strathclyde universities. He was the only person nominated to succeed Sir Kenneth Dover after he retired as Chancellor of the University of St Andrews on 1 January 2006, so took office immediately after nominations closed on 9 January 2006. He was installed as Chancellor on 22 April 2006, at which time he also received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws.


  1. BBC News, Liberal Democrat leader resigns
  2. Carlin, Brendan. "On your marks, Ming" - The London Daily Telegraph - 03/03/2006
  3. Allan Wells page - at
  5. Profile: Lady Campbell BBC News, 2 March 2006
  6. Full text: Menzies Campbell's speech Guardian Unlimited,September 24, 2003
  7. Lib Dem hopefuls clash over Iraq BBC News,9 February 2006
  8. Ming Campbell elected Liberal Democrat leader Liberal Democrats, 2 March 2006
  9. Prime minister's questions BBC News, 11 January 2006
  10. Sir Menzies defending his record BBC News, 14 May 2006
  11. This was Ming's day BBC News, 7 June 2006
  12. MPs angry at 'unfair' extraditionBBC News, 12 July 2006
  13. End Israel arms export - Lib Dems BBC News, 24 July 2006
  14. Kennedy receives popularity boost BBC News, 19 July 2006
  15. Kennedy denies leadership reports BBC News, 30 July 2006
  16. The dishonouring of St Andrews Times Online, 25 October 2006
  17. It isn't just Bono's U2 who are talking through their hat about tax avoidance Guardian Unlimited, 22 October 2006
  18. Khatami's UK visit to bring tirade from Iran Guardian Unlimited, 5 October 2006
  19. Lib Dem anger over Brown tricks BBC News, 21 June 2007
  20. Sir Ming warned as Lib Dems hunt poll boost Daily Telegraph
  21. Lib Dem leader may face challenge as poll ratings drop Guardian
  22. Campbell's website
  23. Liberal Democrat leader resigns 15 October 2007
  24. Scotland on Sunday | Clegg anger over 'ageism' against Campbell
  25. The Guardian | Charities defend Campbell against 'ageist' media
  26. Lib Dems pledge to cut income tax BBC News, 8 June 2006
  27. Full text: Sir Menzies Campbell's speech to the Lib Dem conference Guardian Unlimited, 19 September 2005
  28. Menzies Campbell's speech on liberal Britain Guardian Unlimited, 8 June 2006

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