MP John Leech won’t heed Nick Clegg’s threats

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.

One thought on “MP John Leech won’t heed Nick Clegg’s threats

  1. This article removed from the South Manchester Reporter website sometime in April 2010:
    MP and students in rape letter row
    Laura Thistlethwaite

    MARCH 06, 2008

    A row has erupted between a student union representative and MP John Leech over a letter sent following the rape of a young woman in Withington.

    Women’s officer Elizabeth Somerville has accused John Leech of blaming students for making too much noise, meaning residents take less notice if they hear screams or shouting, in a personal letter he sent to the NUS campaigner.

    In the letter to Ms Somerville, Mr Leech said a constituent had written to him after police enquired in Withington – near where a young student was raped on Mauldeth Road – about any noises they heard that night.

    It stated: “My constituent explained that shouts and screams late at night is the norm in this part of Withington and therefore when people hear noise late at night there inclined to turn over and go back to sleep rather than to assume that someone is in need of help.

    “She wanted me to alert you to this matter and urge you to do all you can to encourage students not to make noise late at night so that when locals hear screams and shouts they know to raise the alarm.

    “I appreciate that this is a small minority of students that are responsible for this noise and that students make a valuable contribution towards south Manchester and that I am sure they would not want to be responsible for compromising the safety of their fellow students and residents.”

    Ms Somerville said she felt Mr Leech was passing the blame on to students – an allegation he strongly denies. She said: “To blame background noise for the 4am rape of a student is to shift the burden of responsibility away from the rapist himself and towards all students.

    “After Saturday’s well attended march about Violence Against Women which saw community and student activists coming together to say no to rape it is very disappointing to see John Leech attempting to destroy these burgeoning community ties.”

    Mr Leech said: “I am absolutely outraged. This was a private letter which I sent to Ms Somerville, it is a downright cheek for her to suggest I am in any way blaming students. I am not anti-student and this is a very serious issue which I raised about personal safety, to try and prevent such attacks.”

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