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Last Updated: Friday, 23 January, 2004, 17:00 GMT
Profile: Jenny Tonge
Jenny Tonge has made her reputation from speaking her mind - and now it has cost her job on the Liberal Democrat front bench.

Soon after entering Parliament in 1997, she was promoted as the Lib Dem answer to then international development secretary Clare Short.

And she has fought hard on a range of issues from the left of her party.

In an interview with BBC News Online last year, she said she was determined to talk about the issues which she believes people really care about.

"We don't talk about the things that people are talking about in the pubs," she says.

"It's down to politicians to raise those issues....however much flak you get."

Key seat

Ms Tonge comes from a long line of Liberals, joining the party as a medical student (during which time, while dissecting a pickled corpse, she met her future husband) in London in 1959.

Selected to fight the Richmond seat in the 1992 general election, she found herself at the centre of a blaze of publicity.

It was her party's top target, their most winnable seat. The scent of victory was in the air. But Dr Tonge lost.

It was a low point, but five years later she won the seat, unseating former Conservative chairman Jeremy Hanley in the process, and in 2001 she doubled her majority.

When she held the international development brief she caught the headlines when she opposed her party's policy on the US-led bombing of targets in Afghanistan last year.

"Bomb them with aid" was her cry in a speech to the party's conference.

And her forthright turn of phrase was evident again when she said: "In the West we have coffee shops. In Africa they have coffin shops, and it's a very good trade indeed because so many people are dying from Aids."

Drugs comments

But she caused controversy beyond her development portfolio.

Dr Tonge, whose home has twice been burgled by heroin addicts, said heroin should be "medicalised" in order to treat more addicts on the NHS.

And she told BBC News Online: "I think cocaine is a difficult one, but I would agree with a lot of people that you would do less damage if cocaine was actually legalised and sold at registered outlets like alcohol than leaving it to the boys on the streets."

Dr Tonge left the international development party post to become the party's spokeswoman on children's issue.

Earlier, she one of the prime movers in the successful campaign to widen access to the "morning-after" contraceptive pill.

Marathon bliss

She has also been an opponent of American proposals for missile defence and a persistent critic of the international arms trade.

As Richmond Park's MP, she has compared graffiti artists who sign their work to dogs urinating on lamp posts.

And in another memorable quotation, she once said: "The bliss of finishing a marathon is right up there with tantric sex."

Dr Tonge has three grown-up children and three grandchildren.


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