Getting to know you - Christine Jardine

Written by Mark McLaughlin on 2 November 2017 in Inside Politics

The Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West serenades Holyrood’s Mark McLaughlin with her party piece and reveals her huge disappointment with aubergines 

Christine Jardine MP - Office of Christine Jardine​

What is your earliest memory?

I had a big birthday recently and my sisters pulled together a DVD of me when I was three years old playing a banjo ukulele, which I used to carry around with me everywhere. I was fascinated with music at that age. My big cousins were all older than me and in a pop group, and I got to go to rehearsals so even at that age I was hankering after performing.

Do you still play the ukulele?

I never played the ukulele. They removed the bridge when I was three so it didn’t make a noise. I play the guitar, and I could probably still play the piano if I had to. It’s how I relax if I’m stressed, tense or upset – cook and play the guitar.

What’s your party piece?

I warm up to Bob Dylan’s ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright…’

So the complete opposite of the Liberal Democrat’s Brexit policy, then?

Ha ha, yeah! I also do a Buffy Sainte-Marie song. Elvis did it too, what’s that bloody song called? (Sings) ‘You’re not a dream, You’re not an angel, You’re a woman, I’m not a king’. Um, anyway!

What were you like at school?

I was boring. For my parents, education was the key to everything so we were all encouraged to do well at school, but to do well on our own terms. I was always interested in politics and history. I was editor of the school magazine and was, well, I would say inquisitive but others would probably say nosy. I always wanted to know more, which is why I became a journalist. I probably didn’t work as hard as I should’ve, but I’m not the only one who’s guilty of that.

Who would be your dream dinner date?

George Clooney is married now, so he’s out. Obviously, all my big idols were politicians, particularly Charles Kennedy, and I’ve been lucky enough to have met most of them as a journalist, but away from politics, it would probably be my sporting idol, Björn Borg. I just love tennis, and he’s gorgeous. If he’s not available, I’d take Roger Federer.

Do you have any phobias?

Spiders. When I was living in the country, I saw a spider the size of a mouse in the kitchen, and I was in such a hurry to run away from it that I tripped and fell flat on my face. I can’t explain it, because in this country they’re generally not venomous, but I just don’t like them. I went to Australia this year with my daughter and I had to grasp my courage with both hands, because I knew I wouldn’t like the spiders.

What is the worst thing that anyone has ever said about you?

Probably that I was boring…

Wasn’t that you, five minutes ago?

It was! But before that, when I was at university, someone, who is still a friend after all these years, said to me, ‘You’re just boring’. The worst thing anybody could say about me is that I didn’t care – that would hurt – but I tend not to listen to bad things people say about me because usually they are said to upset you or undermine you in some way, so I tend to just ignore them. In politics, you can’t afford to dwell on it.

What is your most treasured possession?

My grandmother’s wedding ring. Family is the most important thing to me, and my grandmother was the centre of the family. We are a very matriarchal west of Scotland family and she had a way of making every one of her grandchildren think they were her favourite. When I was 21, I got her wedding ring, and I used it as my wedding ring when I got married. I still wear it, and I always will.
Is there anything you dislike about your appearance? I’ve put on weight, and I need to do something about that. I wish my nose was slightly smaller, but then I wouldn’t be me. The way I look is who I am.

Do you have any guilty pleasures?

Well, I do like reality TV and I do watch some TV that my daughter would probably be embarrassed if I admitted. I love Bake Off.
What would you cook on Bake Off? I can’t bake. I once cooked a friend a birthday cake and it became a running joke, because I’m just not a good baker. If I had to do something, I would probably go for something like a very ornate Victoria sponge.

If you could go back in time to any era, where would you go?

Probably the ‘60s, because anything was possible. You had the original Cool Britannia when British music was huge and politics was exciting. It was quite bad at times too, but people like Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King made the world seem like potentially a much better place. It makes me want to change my dinner date to King, so I could talk to him about how he could carry on with everything going on in the American south at the time and not feel bitter, and be the inspiration to so many people. Maybe it was his religion. Bobby Kennedy had real vision, and was such a loss not just to America but to all of us.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

When I was at school thinking about which subject to do or career to pursue, my dad said, ‘Do what you want to do, do what you’re comfortable with, what you think your strengths are, and be the best you can’. I’ve always tried to do what I think is best, and work to my strengths.

What skill should every person have?

To be able to listen to other people, hear what they are saying and take on board their thoughts and ideas. You can only find out other people’s needs if you listen to them.

What is the worst pain you’ve ever experienced?

There have been so many. Physical pain passes. I’ve had broken bones, split my head, but emotional pain is probably the worst thing of all. The emotional pain of Mhari losing her dad at 20 years old is still quite recent. Ironically, she was exactly the same age as I was when I lost my dad, so I’ve been there and I could see it from her point of view. The emotional pain of seeing your child suffer in any way is the worst pain that you can possibly have.

What is your least favourite food?

I don’t know if I have one, I’ll eat almost anything, but, urgh, I do not like aubergine. As a vegetable, it is such a huge disappointment. It’s such a beautiful vegetable, and it’s such a lovely colour, but I just can’t eat it.

What is your favourite film?

Local Hero, because it reminds me of a part of the world I love – Easter Ross – and it talks about the contradiction between the oil industry and the environment, which is a hugely important issue and that’s why it’s Al Gore’s favourite film as well.

What was your best holiday?

All through my childhood we always went to a place called Portmahomack, and I still go because my family still have bases there. We went there by accident in 1964, and we kept going every year for at least a week. We would stay at a cottage at the front with my mum and dad’s best friends and their kids, and we had an absolute ball. Coming from Clydebank, going to Easter Ross was just a different world. It just holds so many happy memories of simple things, like playing on the beach, playing in the garden, and being with friends and family.


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