Lipstick and coffee in the Scottish Parliament: Hugh McMahon aka “the bulldog”

On Friday the United Kingdom Association for European Law held a conference hosted in the Scottish Parliament on Devolved Jurisdictions and the European Union.

Three of the speakers had been directly involved with the foreign lecturers discrimination cases against Italy in the European Court of Justice; Francis Jacobs as Advocate General; Clive Lewis QC, supporting the Commission’s case on behalf of the British government and European Court of Justice judge David Edward (now retired).

I’m there, feeling a little bit like a fish out of water.

Funny people lawyers – they love details. I am sitting at a table in the foyer, waiting to go into the chamber, when a retired magistrate (as she later reveals) leans over and picks up her coffee, which is sitting a few inches from my right hand.

 As she arms down, I glance up.

 “It IS my coffee” she says, matter of factly – before adding her evidential point, which is:  “it’s got lipstick on the cup”.

“Yes” I say, in agreement,  “and it’s not my shade of lipstick either”. Case resolved.

It was a great pleasure to see Hugh McMahon aka “the bulldog”, Labour MEP for Scotland from 1984 until 1999, when he was shafted by the Labour party because he was a man. 

David Petrie & Hugh McMahon, Scottish Parliament 23 April 2010

Hugh worked tirelessly for the foreign lecturers in Italy and built cross-party support in the European Parliament – steering through two resolutions at the Strasbourg plenary.

I meet Hugh at the reception, he spots judge Edward and grabs my arm and saying “lets go”.

Hugh’s style was refreshingly simply – he would collar people in authority, tell them what was happening, wait until they agreed with him whereupon he would shuffle his feet, lean back, cock his head slightly to the left and say “so what are you going to do about it?

Judge Edward – whom I have met on several occasions  – got in first and asked me how things were going. He looked despondent on learning that only 17% of foreign lecturers in Italy have obtained anything like a remedy.

I accompanied Hugh to Waverley station in Edinburgh where he had promised me a coffee – no time – I said – your train leaves in 10 minutes … but he sends his warm wishes  to Vicky, the two French ladies, Sue and the lettori he met in Turin, Brussels and Strasbourg.

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