La Treizième Étoile: 31/10/10 - 07/11/10 Blog Archives
News from the European Union with a focus on the South West UK and Gibraltar region and its MEPs
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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.


UKIP expected to unveil Nigel Farage as its new leader (and sure enough it does)

Nigel Farage MEPThe UK Independence Party is set to reveal its new party leader today and it is expected that Nigel Farage, a founding member of the party and its current leader in Europe, will resume the post he gave up in 2009 to contest the UK general election.

The outspoken MEP is undoubtedly UKIP’s frontman and leader in all but official title, but he does face competition for the party leadership, in the form of MEP colleague David Campbell Bannerman, economist Tim Congdon and Winston McKenzie, an ex-boxer who has been a member of three British political parties and once auditioned (unsuccessfully) for the X-Factor.

The UKIP election was triggered after (Lord) Malcolm Pearson stood down after less than one year as leader explaining that he is "not much good at party politics". (Mind you he wasn’t much good as the party’s spokesman when appearing in the media – in a particularly revealing appearance on the BBC’s Campaign Show Pearson appeared to struggle to remember points from the party’s manifesto then at the end remarked “I didn't come on to talk about this sort of thing.” Farage, as we all know, is a much better public speaker and knows a few soundbites for the cameras...)

Lord Pearson was elected leader in November 2009, after Farage stepped down to concentrate on contesting the Buckingham parliamentary seat held by the speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow. That attempt failed but was made more dramatic by the light aircraft crash which Mr Farage survived on polling day.

The result is expected to be announced later today, but quite honestly any result other than the re-election of Nigel Farage would come as a surprise.

UPDATE (15.15): Nigel Farage has indeed been re-elected as leader of the UK Independence Party. The MEP won just over 6,000 votes representing 60.5% of the overall vote while Tim Congdon came in second place with a respectable 20.2%. David Campbell Bannerman came in third with 14% and Winston McKenzie came home in last place with just 5.3% of the vote.

In his acceptance speech, Mr Farage immediately launched into an attack on Prime Minister David Cameron and said UKIP was the only party that would offer a referendum on the European Union's Lisbon Treaty. He said: "His international policy for the United Kingdom is simple - it is surrender, surrender, surrender," and that the "only party prepared to talk about these issues openly, the only party prepared to put these great questions about who governs Britain to a referendum is now UKIP". Watch more of Farage's acceptance speech.

Last election:

Click here to see which six MEPs were elected.