Liddell awarded Australian high commissioner post

Former Scottish Secretary Helen Liddell is being lined up to take over as the next British high commissioner to Australia, the government announced today.

The Labour MP for Airdrie and Shotts MP will take over the coveted post from Conservative-appointed Sir Alastair Goodlad, assuming Labour wins next year's general election.

In a statement, Tony Blair said "I have known and worked with Helen Liddell for many years - she has been a valued colleague and a good friend."

"She has had a long and successful career in both politics and business and will make an outstanding high commissioner to Australia," the prime minister added.

Health secretary, John Reid, also paid tribute to his fellow Scot, saying: "Helen Liddell has been a great servant of the people of Airdrie and Shotts. She was the first ever female general secretary of the Scottish Labour party and served right through to becoming the first ever female secretary of state for her country. That is testimony to her success. "

"Her appointment as the next British High Commissioner to Australia marks an exciting new stage in her illustrious career."

Ms Liddell stepped down from the Cabinet in last June's reshuffle, claiming she wanted to spend more time with her husband, family and friends. The post of Scottish secretary was given to transport secretary Alistair Darling, who currently holds both positions.

In order to take up her post, Ms Liddell will have to stand down from Parliament at the next election.

The announcement that Ms Liddell is likely to become the next Australian high commissioner has fuelled speculation that Peter Mandelson will become Britain's next European commissioner.