Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Diana Wallis’

Rebecca Taylor to Be New LibDem MEP

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 31st January, 2012

After several days of uncertainty, it has now been formally announced by Liberal Democrat headquarters that Rebecca Taylor will become the new LibDem MEP for Yorkshire and Humberside following Diana Wallis’s sudden resignation. Diana’s move came as a shock to friends and strangers alike, particularly as she had only just stood unsuccessfully to be President of the European Parliament, but she feels that twelve-and-a-half years of hectic Euro-political life is enough. Given the strain of all the travel and dealing with a massive Euro-constituency, one can easily understand that. It was assumed that in keeping with previous practice the seat would then pass automatically to the next person down on the LibDems’ 2009 regional list, Stewart Arnold, who happens to be Diana’s husband. Indeed, that is what was announced in last Friday’s edition of the weekly party newspaper Liberal Democrat News. But eyebrows were raised in some quarters and there were some pretty hard-hitting comments, not least from North West MEP Chris Davies, about how seemly  it was for a husband to inherit his wife’s seat (despite the fact that he was well qualified, as he had been working for her in her office). Anyway, after due consideration, Stewart Arnold declined  the seat, which meant that it was offered to the third person on the list, Rebecca Taylor, instead. Though Yorkshire born and with strong family links to the region — she also stood for Rotheram in the 2010 General Election — Rebecca has carved a career out for herself in London, so not surprisingly she had to give the matter some consideration before deciding what to do. However, she has now agreed to take on the responsibility — and brilliant opportunity, I might add. She is being thrown in the deep end at age 36, but it will do no harm to the British LibDem group in the Parliament to have an energetic new person in their ranks.


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The European Parliament’s New President

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 17th January, 2012

As expected. Martin Schulz of the Socialist Group (S&D) was elected by MEPs to be the new President of the European Parliament today, taking over from former Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek of the centre-right Christian Democrats (EPP). But his majority was not a landslide, despite the traditional stitch-up between the two main political groups in the parliament. Two British challengers, Diana Wallis from the LibDems (and therefore ALDE) and Nirj Deva of the Conservatives (ECR) did pick up quite a a lot of support from disaffected main party MEPs as well as from members of their own minority groups. The system is a farce, and does nothing to enhance the already shaky reputation of the European Parliament amongst the electorate across the EU’s 27 member states. Sir Graham Watson, former ALDE leader and now President of the ELDR (European Liberal Democrats, which also also embraces parties from European states outside the EU) was one of the first to tilt Don Quixote-like at the windmills of the Euro-parliamentary structure and Diana Wallis deserves credit for picking up the baton with panache. Meanwhile, few people in Britain, other than Euro-political nerds, will have any idea who Martin Schulz is. After all, most of the British electorate cannot name a single one of their own MEPs, so why should they have heard of a German one? But this is a pity, to say the least. The British public is poorly served by domestic media coverage of the European Parliament and its doings, in stark contrast to the citizens of Spain, for example. Anyway, it is worth knowing something about the man who will be presiding over sessions of the Parliament for the next two-and-a-half years. Born in an area where the German, Dutch and Belgian borders meet, Martin Schulz is unusual amongst MEPs in being a bookseller by profession; he ran his own bookshop in Wuerselen from 1982 to 1994. But he was politically motivated from an early age. He joined the German Social Democratic Party at the age of 19, and 12 years later, he was elected Mayor of Wuerselen. According to his official European Parliament potted biography, this experience ‘shaped my enthusiasm for Europe and the conviction that I wanted to help build and advance the European project.’ So no doubts there about how the new President wants to further the cause of European integration. But it will be interesting to see how he handles debates as he is a more fiery character than Jerzy Buzek, who has aptly been described by Andrew Duff MEP as ‘gentlemanly’. A few fireworks might be no bad thing, as they might attract to the Parliament a little more of the attention that it definitely deserves as it accrues more powers and influence in the decision- and law-making processes of the EU.

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Diana Wallis’s Long Shot

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 16th January, 2012

Tomorrow, members of the European Parliament will have the chance to vote for a new President — what in Britain we would normally call a Speaker or Presiding Officer (incidentally, there are too many presidnets in the EU set-up, which is one small reason among many larger ones why the British tabloids make fun of it). The contest rarely gets much coverage in the UK media, which is hardly surprising, as for some time it has been a stitch-up between the two big blocs in the Parliament, the EPP (Christian Democrats and allies) and the Socialists. So everyone is expecting that the German Socialist Martin Schulz will seemlessly take over from the Polish centre-right Jerzy Buzek. The two men are very different in character and style — Schulz is much more fiery and unpredictable than the urbane Buzek — but that won’t cover up the fact that this is a “buggins turn” situation, and yet another reason why the European Parliament and the EU in general are easy targets for the Eurosceptics’ fire. In keeping with the convention of the stitch-up, there is no EPP candidate challenging Martin Schulz. But there are two Brits who have put their hats in the ring, in the interests of true democracy. One is the maverick Conservative Nirj Deva, from the loopy right-wing ragbag European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR), into which David Cameron exiled the British Conservative MEPs after breaking with the EPP. Deva should pick up some support from his colleagues in that. But the other contender, more significantly, is Diana Wallis, LibDem MEP for Yorkshire and Humberside (and therefore a member of the European Liberal Democrats Group – ELDR), who was a Vice-President of the Parliament in the last session. Though she knows she has little chance of undoing the EPP-Socialists’ cosy stitch-up, she has been campaigning hard, systematically working round as many of the 750-odd MEPs as possible, calling for more transparency in the EP system. As she defines it herself, her campaign has been in the pursuit of a more open and positive European Parliament. ‘I also wanted to reach out to show the possibility of a deeper engagement with all European citizens,’ she says. ‘The actions and decisions of the members of the European Parliament will always be insufficient if all Europeans do not feel that the Parliament belongs to them.’ Hear Hear! She won’t win, as the informal system is stacked against her. But she deserves a good vote and congratulations for standing up for democratic principles.


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Beckenham Looks to Scandinavia

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 11th October, 2008

Beckenham Liberal Democrats’ annual dinner this evening had a Scandinavian theme, with a Danish menu including a smorrebrod starter of herring, apple and beetroot salad; delicious tiny fried meatballs in a light cream sauce with lingonberries, potatoes, red cabbage and cucumber salad; and a girth-defying drommerkage (dream cake) with vanilla ice-cream and warm cloudberry sauce. The political imput came from Ruth Coleman Taylor, who was for many years a member of the European Union’s Committee of the Regions, on which representatives of local government sit. She spoke of how being in the EU — and benefiting from funds for peripheral areas — had enabled mobile telecoms companies such as Nokia boom in Finland, while the islands off Stockholm got regular ferry services. Recent enlargement of the EU has notably shifted the Union’s focus to the east and south, but there are interesting lessons to be learnt from what has been happening in Scandinavia. Moreover, the area’s future has been a major issue on the Committee of the Region’s agenda, Ruth said. In the European Parliament, Diana Wallis, MEP for Yorkshire and Humberside, has been one of the most engaged British politicians keeping up our historic links with our friends across the North Sea.


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