Manchester Withington MP John Leech has been warned by leader Nick Clegg that his European rebellion will not go unpunished. The Lib Dems falling out over Europe was remarkable, given the party’s previous unblemished record of support for the EU. And perhaps even more remarkable was that this overshadowed any difficulties the government faced.
However, it’s unlikely that Leech will be easily tamed. Most Labour and Tory MPs owe their position to their party, but Lib Dems like John Leech have gained their seats by fighting highly autonomous local campaigns with little or no support from the centre. Consequently, they do not feel that they owe their party a great deal and John Leech has the mentality of an independent.
Prior to his election, Leech was unknown in wider Lib Dem circles and had never visited a party conference. While constituency activists continue to leaflet Withington on a near fortnightly basis, it’s not gone unnoticed that new leader Nick Clegg has yet to be introduced to local voters.
‘Rape letter’ scandal
Meanwhile last Saturday was International Women’s Day and John was embroiled in a ‘rape letter’ scandal. In parliament Manchester Central MP Tony Lloyd reflected on the challenges women face in the labour market and John’s Withington opponent Lucy Powell blogged on violence against women in the Guardian.
However, ever the puritan, John Leech was abusing the rape of a student to fuel his propaganda war on people enjoying themselves. He wrote to a university students’ union women’s officer to suggest that noisy students provide cover for rapists… the Cowley Street clique is wondering what on earth Manchester Withington’s saddled them with.