Tuesday 24 January 2012

Letting the side down?

Yesterday I received a letter from Diana Wallis, one of our Liberal Democrat MEPs for Yorkshire, saying that, after twelve and a half years she's decided to call it a day and resign from the parliament. I gather Liz lynne, MEP for the West Midlands, has made a similar decision.

I'm not sufficient of an anorak to have kept M/s Wallis's campaign material, whether for selection as a Liberal Democrat candidate or for the election itself, but I doubt that in either will she have made it clear that she was interested in serving us for only half the parliamentary term. On the contrary, I expect that there will have been details of successes achieved, plans for further projects and promises of dedicated service. I suspect much the same for Liz Lynne.

There are of course legitimate reasons for public representatives to stand down before their term is completed - a deterioration in health, substantially changed family circumstances - but there seems to be no such excuse in either of these cases (though M/s Wallis does refer to a long standing medical condition,but acknowledges that his is not her main reason for resigning.)

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that both MEPs are making cynical use of the system to give their successors time to "bed in" and thus have the advantage of incumbency come the next election. M/s Lynn has named her successor, a Phil Bennion, and, indeed, gives this explicit reason. M/s Wallis mentions that her number 2, Stewart Arnold, has not yet made up his mind mind. She now mentions that Mr Arnold is her husband, something that I don't remember being made very clear in the party's selection procedure.

It could be argued that, since we electors vote in this instance for a party list rather than an individual , it doesn't really matter to the voters which person on the list does the job. This, in my view, demonstrates the inadequacy of the list system, imposed by the Labour government, which gives maximum power to the parties and the minimum to the voters.

I deeply regret that these resignations make a further dent in our quest for more honest politics. They can only add to the cynicism of the electorate. Coming from Liberal Democrats they make it yet more difficult to challenge the popular, and I used to believe misguided, view that "you are all the same."


  1. Liz Lynne has been rather ill and I don't think it is fair to compare the two cases. I think Liz would have stood down even if we had a different system.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Colin. If I'm being unfair to Liz Lynne I do apologise. All I have to go on in her case is her article in Liberal Democrat News (13th January, 2012) in which she doesn't mention illness, but does mention giving "my successor Phil Bennion time to bed down before the next election." I am, however , more concerned by the resignation of Diana Wallis, my own MEP, and am happy to accept that the two cases many not be comparable.