Two days ago, Yorkshire and the Humber Lib Dem MEP Diana Wallis stood for the Presidency of the Parliament and almost, but for one vote, came second. That was as good as a result as she could have hoped for. Given the way these things are usually stitched up between the two main groups, she was never going to win.
The whole Liberal Democrat party will be shocked to learn of her resignation as an MEP, effective 31st January. This leaves the way clear, as in any other list seat, for the second placed person on the list to take over her seat. That person is Stewart Arnold, her husband, who also works for her. It has not yet been confirmed whether he will take the seat.
A statement on her website said:
“I have been in the European Parliament twelve years and I think that is time enough. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time and it was truly a huge privilege; especially to serve as a Vice President of Parliament for the last five years. However, I think all of us, whatever our professions, need to turn a new page from time to time.
“At the mid-term of parliament many members come and go, so accordingly this moment following upon my unsuccessful bid for the Presidency is a good time to take stock. I undertook that bid for reasons that I deeply believe in but such a course of action is bound to lead to reflection. I want to take a break from politics and to take time and assess what next.
“I have been at the service of the people of Yorkshire and the Humber for twelve and a half years. I will always be grateful for the trust that was placed in me to carry out this role, but now is the time for someone with fresh eyes to take over.
“I remain a committed pro-European Liberal Democrat.”
North West Lib Dem MEP Chris Davies was scathing about her decision to go, telling The Parliament website:
“I am appalled and feel betrayed by her decision. To stand for election for the presidency one day and then resign the following day is quite unbelievable.
“It is an insult to her constituents and a slap in the face for the constituents who supported her in the last European elections.
“There will be some people who will regard this as quite unprincipled.”
“I have known her for 13 years but I now think my assessment of her character was wrong.”
An unnamed Lib Dem MEP was quoted as saying that her move had all the hallmarks of a stitch up.
Her constituency colleague, human rights champion and newly re-elected Vice President of the Parliament Edward McMillan-Scott was much more generous, paying tribute to her work. Sir Graham Watson and group leader Fiona Hall also were sympathetic.
One person who got it completely wrong, though was a Tory Yorkshire and Humber MEP, Godfrey Bloom, saying:
But trying to shoehorn her husband into her old salary as she resigns really is a working definition of nepotism in my opinion. One Wallis is as bad as another.
“The Lib Dems are always screaming in favour of gender quotas. Diana Wallis has gone all quiet about that now. Jobs for the boys now – you could hardly make this story up.”
Gender quotas? Us? He’s got that one wrong and he clearly doesn’t know that we haven’t used zipping since 1999. If Arnold were to take her place, he would have to face reselection on a one member one vote basis, before the next election in 2014.
No doubt there will be more to follow on this, but I thought I’d let you know what was happening.