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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 March 2007, 02:47 GMT
Oldest worker backs Sir Menzies
Buster Martin
Buster Martin: Encouraging words for Lib Dem leader
Britain's oldest worker, 100-year-old van cleaner Buster Martin, has told Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell to ignore jibes about his age.

Sir Menzies, who has faced questions about whether he is too old, at 65, to lead his party, said he drew inspiration from Mr Martin.

He said his story showed how people were living longer, healthier lives.

Mr Martin welcomed Sir Menzies' remarks, saying "age should not be a barrier when it comes to work".

Sir Menzies, who earlier marked his first year as Lib Dem leader, with a speech on law and order at the party's spring conference in Harrrogate, has faced constant questions about his age.

In an interview with the BBC, he said he felt he was being discriminated against and would not be treated this way if he was "black, female or gay".

Age should never be a barrier when it comes to work. I'm sure Sir Menzies at 65 agrees with that
Buster Martin

He also stressed he was in excellent shape physically and mentally. Speaking earlier, he said he drew inspiration from people like Mr Martin.

"There was a guy in the paper who is still working aged 100. I am not necessarily anticipating that, but people live longer, they are healthier, they are intellectually more acute."

He will also draw comfort from a BBC Newsnight poll, which suggested most voters did not see his age as an issue.

The ICM poll said 9% of people who responded thought Sir Menzies' age was an advantage, 22% thought it was a disadvantage and 67% thought it made no difference.

Welcoming Sir Menzies remarks, Mr Martin said: "I don't see myself as special or different, I just know that I have to keep on working as it will be boredom that will be the end of me rather than anything else.

"Age should never be a barrier when it comes to work. I'm sure Sir Menzies at 65 agrees with that."

A former market trader who married in 1920 and has 17 children, Mr Martin began work at Pimlico Plumbers in south London three years ago because he was bored.

Ben Ramm, of The Liberal magazine, who has been a critic of Sir Menzies, said it was not his physical age that was seen as a problem by some in the party but the "lethargic" quality of his leadership.

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