Friday, January 20, 2012

Chris Davies is still very angry with Diana Wallis

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Last night, I wrote about North West Lib Dem MEP Chris Davies' strong reaction to Diana Wallis' resignation as MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, just a few days after he supported her bid for the presidency of the European Parliament.

Today, he's launched an astonishing attack on her on his website. Chris has never been one for holding back about stuff but his comments are strong even for him. He says he feels deceived, that "even by low standards of bad losers this marks a new descent.

If Diana's husband, Stewart Arnold, takes her place in February, as he is entitled to do, being second on the list, it's going to be a bit awkward in group meetings, that's all I can say. Chris says if Arnold takes the seat, we will be tainted because it looks like a huge stitch up.

I tend to agree with Paul Walter that you can't really start rewriting rules now. Every other time an MEP has resigned, they've been replaced in the same way, based on the selection results. I wouldn't like to see a situation where a candidate is put off from standing simply because of who their spouse is. That would be unfair. It's up to the members of the Party to decide who their candidates are. Sometimes you wish that could be different, but it is a principle of our party.

Of course, Stewart Arnold does not have to take up the place in which case it would go to third placed Rebecca Taylor. I would probably have preferred that the arguing had taken place behind closed doors.

Here are Chris Davies' comments in full.

“One day Diana Wallis was campaigning to become President of the European Parliament, pledging to fight for more openess and transparency, and on the next she apparently decided that it wasn’t good enough just to serve as an ordinary MEP.
“Even by the low standards of bad losers this marks a new descent.  I deeply regret having been one of those who supported her presidency bid.  As a Vice President in the Parliament she did some good work, but athough I have known her for 13 years I now feel deceived about her true motives.
“Her constituents in Yorkshire and the Humber, and Liberal Democrat party workers in particular, deserve a better explanation of her actions.
“Her husband has been her paid parliamentary assistant since she was elected in 1999.  Five years ago he narrowly secured 2nd place in the selection contest for her seat and this means that he may automatically succeed her.  It could be a case of revolving doors; she leaves, he arrives.
“This may be within the party’s rules but many people will think it doesn’t sound right and some will say that it stinks.  I would agree with them.  This would be a gift to eurosceptics who accuse MEPs of being out of touch and interested only in feathering their own nests, and we will all be tainted as a result.
“Yorkshire and the Humber is represented by two Liberal Democrat MEPs.  The other, Edward McMillan Scott, crossed the floor to us from the Conservatives because he believed that fundamental principles were being betrayed.
“It is good to know that Liberal Democrats in the region have a man of principle to represent them.”
As to what lies beneath Wallis' shock resignation, Darren Ennis over at MHP blog says that her candidacy for President as an independent could have (but hasn't in fact) cost her colleague Sharon Bowles her job as chair of a key Parliamentary Committee. Her position in the group was definitely weakened by her candidacy and perhaps she has just decided she didn't want to deal with it and spat the dummy. It just seems odd that someone should be so full of challenging the established order one day and within a week is sloping off home.

Is there more to it than dummy spitting? Only one person knows, but I think the party is entitled to an explanation.

I don't think either Diana Wallis or Chris Davies have been particularly helpful to the party these last 24 hours.  It wasn't fair of her to just resign without discussing it with colleagues - in fact, it was rude. And would it not have been better for Chris to make his comments about the succession initially in private?

Our MEP group seems to have disintegrated into soap opera. That is not a good thing.


Andrew said...

I'm not surprised at Chris making those comments. He's not one for holding back and I fully understand both his position and his concerns. While I don't think we can simply re-write rules on the basis of them, it's perfectly reasonable of Chris to point out the damage that the mere appearance of wrongdoing and people "feathering their own nests" can do to the party.

What does surprise me is the personal nature of his comments, the vitriol with which he expresses his concerns, and his choice to do so in such a public forum - all of which are potentially even more damaging to the Liberal Democrats.

Liberal Neil said...

It doesn't look great, but you've got to admire Chris Davies' willingness to be honest.


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