Arise Sir Graham! South West MEP honoured with knighthood in the Queen's Birthday Honours List - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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Arise Sir Graham! South West MEP honoured with knighthood in the Queen's Birthday Honours List

Saturday, 11 June 2011
Graham Watson, the long-serving liberal Democrat MEP for the South West England and Gibraltar, has been awarded a Knighthood “for public and political services” by her Majesty the Queen in her annual Birthday Honours List released this morning.

Mr Watson, now residing in Langport (Somerset), was born in Rothesay (Scotland) and was first elected to serve the residents of the South West in the European Parliament in the 1994 elections.

He was the first ever British Liberal Democrat to be elected to the European Parliament.

From 1994 to 1999, Mr Watson served a member of the Committee for Economic & Monetary Affairs and Industrial Policy as well as the Budgets Committee, and later from July 1999 to 2002 he served as Chairman of the Committee on Citizens' Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs.

He served as leader of the Liberal Democrat party for three years between 1999 and 2002 when he was elected leader of the Liberal ALDE group within the European Parliament. Under his leadership, the Liberal group grew to become the 3rd largest party in the assembly and are today often kingmakers whose support is vital in order to pass motions that shape the European Union.

After seven and a half years at the helm, Mr Watson relinquished the leader role for former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt in July 2009, but still plays a big role on the backbenches and as Chair of the delegation to India, a member of the delegation to China, and a member of the hallowed Committee of Foreign Affairs.

He becomes the second in the current batch of UK MEPs to have received a knighthood. Conservative MEP for the North West Sir Robert Atkins was knighted in 1997 for services to the country.

Congratulations Sir Graham!

UPDATE (11/06: 20.02):
It would appear that the knighthood bestowed on the Lib Dem MEP has not been received kindly within the UKIP ranks. In fact, it has "appalled" William Dartmouth, one of UKIP's South West MEPs. In a statement posted on the group's website, he says: "The award of a knighthood to Graham Watson [...] serves to underline all that is wrong with the honours system, in respect of establishment politics. I find it hypocritical that Sir Graham, as he now is, an avowed anti-monarchist, and leading light in the campaign pressure group Republic, should accept this award in, what is, afterall, Her Majesty's Birthday Honours list." Perhaps a congratulatory card is in the post...

UPDATE (13/06: 17.45):
Sir Graham Watson has responded to his award of a knighthood and expressed his belief the honour was in recognition of his services to the Liberal Democrats in Europe and his work introducing the European Arrest Warrant. Speaking on BBC Radio Devon, he said: "I take it as an honour, not for myself but for all those Liberal Democrats who have worked for the kind of things I am working for.

"I think my republican sympathies are well known. I have long been of the opinion that, while Her Majesty should remain on the throne for as long as she sees fit, we should be preparing now for the election of a president to succeed her. I'm not the only person to hold these views and not the only person to be honoured in this way.

"There is an irony of course", he continued, "I would certainly not wish, in any way, to offend Her Majesty, who must be aware of my republican sympathies."

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