South West MEP Watson to stand for ELDR Presidency - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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South West MEP Watson to stand for ELDR Presidency

Friday, 5 November 2010
Graham Watson MEP in Strasbourg (Photo: has emerged this week that the South West Liberal Democrat MEP Graham Watson, a former leader of the ALDE grouping of liberal MEPs in the European Parliament, is to stand for the presidency of the ELDR party.

Scottish-born Watson, who has been an MEP for the South West constituency since 1994 wants to succeed Belgian Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck who will step down next year after five years as president of the ELDR, the pan-European Liberal party.

It can be in no doubt that he has the experience for such a job – after all in his first 15 years in parliament, Mr Watson has served as a backbencher and a committee chairman in addition to leading the ALDE group for five years from its birth in 2004 and even running (unsuccessfully) for President of the Parliament following the parliamentary elections in 2009.

However he is likely to face some criticism from eurosceptics following a few comments made recently in his newly published memoirs Building a Liberal Europe: The ALDE project in which he admitted that parliament has been "used mainly as a rest home."

Quoted by The Parliament magazine, of which he used to be editor, Mr Watson says in his first 15 years in parliament he had three major frustrations: "The first was that the parliament I joined in 1994 was used by political parties mainly as rest home for those who had served careers in national politics or as a first step on the ladder for those who sought them."

Another frustration, he says, was that a "significant" number of deputies believed it desirable to have a "drawbridge up" Europe, which "struck me as astonishing testimony to the difficulty of conquering ignorance".

He also takes a swipe at the other big political groupings in the European Parliament in his new book branding the EPP, the Parliament’s largest grouping, as "inherently unstable" and the Socialists as being a party in "terminal decline" meaning that "the opportunity for a stronger centre is immense."

Remarkably he says that "for all his presentational skills" former British Prime Minister Tony Blair "achieved less for Britain in Europe" than his predecessor, the Tory PM John Major.

Never the less, Mr Watson was the very first liberal returned from a British constituency to serve in the European Parliament, and together with his many years of experience should put my local liberal MEP in good standing.


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