Graham Watson

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For the English footballer, see Graham Watson (footballer).
Graham Watson
GrahamWatsonMEPHead and Shoulders.jpg
President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party
Incumbent
Assumed office
25 November 2011
Preceded by Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck
Leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe in the European Parliament
In office
13 July 2004 – 1 July 2009
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Guy Verhofstadt
Leader of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party in the European Parliament
In office
6 January 2002 – 13 July 2004
Preceded by Pat Cox
Succeeded by Position abolished
Member of the European Parliament
for South West England
In office
20 July 1999 – 2 July 2014
Preceded by Constituency established
Succeeded by Clare Moody
Member of the European Parliament
for Somerset and North Devon
In office
18 July 1994 – 20 July 1999
Preceded by Constituency established
Succeeded by Constituency abolished
Personal details
Born (1956-03-23) 23 March 1956 (age 58)
Rothesay, United Kingdom
Political party Liberal Democrats
Spouse(s) Rita Watson
Children 1 daughter
1 son
Alma mater Heriot-Watt University
Website Official website

Sir Graham Robert Watson (born 23 March 1956) is a British Liberal Democrat politician. He served as a Member of the European Parliament for South West England from 1994 until 2014 and was the leader of the Group of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party 2002–2004 and the first leader of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe 2004–2009.[1] Since 2011, he has been the President of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party.

Early life[edit]

Graham Watson was born in Rothesay on the Isle of Bute (Scotland, United Kingdom). His father was an officer in the Royal Navy and his mother a teacher. Watson was educated at the City of Bath Boys' School, where he played violin in the school orchestra. He later returned to Scotland to attend Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh where he graduated in 1979 with a Bachelor of Arts in modern languages.[1] He worked first as a freelance interpreter and translator and then (1980–83) as an administrator at Paisley College of Technology. He now speaks four European languages.

Watson had begun his political activity in the National League of Young Liberals in 1972. As international officer of the Scottish Young Liberals he became involved in the International Federation of Liberal Youth, becoming a vice-president (1977) then General Secretary (1979) of the organisation.[2] He was a founder of the European Communities' Youth Forum.[1] He served as a council member of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party between 1983 and 1993.[2] Between 1983 and 1987 he also served as head of the private office of then leader of the British Liberal Party, Sir David Steel.[1]

In 1988 he began work for the bank HSBC in London and Hong Kong. His work there included three months with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and gave him an interest in the Far East. He is now an adviser to the Asia Pacific Public Affairs Forum and is learning Mandarin Chinese.[1]

European Parliament[edit]

In the 1994 European Parliamentary election he was elected for Somerset and North Devon with a majority of over 22,500. Watson,[1] was the first Liberal Democrat returned from a British constituency to serve in the European Parliament. Watson and Robin Teverson, elected later the same night, sat with the Group of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party (ELDR).[1] During this term, Watson served on two committees; the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and Industrial Policy and the Committee on Budgets,[1] and acted as whip for the ELDR group until 1996.[2]

Second term[edit]

In 1999 the introduction of the list system - a form of proportional representation - in Great Britain for European elections meant Watson's constituency was abolished in favour of a larger multi-member constituency encompassing South West England. The South West constituency would later also include Gibraltar in 2004. Watson was re-elected in this constituency as the sole Liberal Democrat member at the 1999 European Parliamentary election. He had gained 171,398 votes, 15.7% of the total behind both Labour and the Conservatives (1 and 4 seats respectively).[3] During this term he led the British Liberal Democrats in the parliament[2] and between 1999 to 2002 he held the chair of the Committee on Citizens' Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs.[1]

During this parliamentary term the ELDR Group were in coalition with the European People's Party–European Democrats (EPP–ED).[4] As per a usual agreement between the majority alliance, the term of President of the European Parliament is split between the two parties, giving the then-leader of the ELDR Group, Pat Cox MEP, the Presidency from 2002.[5] When he took up the post, Watson was elected to succeed him as leader of the ELDR Group.[1]

Third term[edit]

Watson was re-elected once more at the 2004 European Parliamentary election with 265,619 votes (18.3%) behind the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) with 326,784 votes (22.6% giving two seats) and the Conservatives with 457,371 votes (31.6% giving three seats). Labour had fallen behind the Liberals to 209,908 votes (14.5%) but still retained one seat.[6]

Following the election, Watson led the ELDR Group into an alliance with the newly formed European Democratic Party to form the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. The ALDE group replaced the ELDR group (though ELDR and EDP exist as separate parties outside the Parliament) and Watson was elected leader of the new ALDE group which was the largest group ever established in the Parliament outside of the European People's Party and Party of European Socialists.[7]

In 2007 Watson addressed the ELDR congress stating he wished to break the current left-right grand coalition.[8] He had previously been critical of this and welcomed the centre-right alliance his group had formed for the fifth term.[4] Watson likened the Socialists to poodles of the People's Party in their alliance. He cited in contrast the strength of the ALDE group in the Parliament and the Commission and that after 2009, the liberals would have strong candidates for the Commission. He also stated that the party would be moving towards Europe-wide campaigning rather than separate national campaigns.[8]

On 7 January 2009 he announced that he would be a candidate for the office of President of the European Parliament after the elections in June 2009.[9]

Fourth term[edit]

Watson was elected to a fourth term as an MEP for the South West in the European Parliament elections of June 2009,[10] with 266,253 votes (17.07%).[11] The Conservatives gained 468,742 votes (30.05%), winning three seats; the United Kingdom Independence Party gained 341,845 votes (21.92%), winning two seats; The Green Party gained 144,179 votes (9.24%), winning no seats; The Labour Party gained 118,716 votes (7.61%), winning no seats; 11 other parties and one independent gained 219,973 votes (14.10%), winning no seats.[11] Following the election, Watson stood down from the leadership of the ALDE Group. He sat on the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee and is Chairman of Parliament's Delegation for relations with India. He also chairs a global network of legislators campaigning for a switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy known as The Climate Parliament.

2014 European Elections[edit]

Sir Graham Watson lost his seat at the European Parliament in the elections of May 2014 having polled 10.7% of the vote.

Other activities and family[edit]

Watson lives in Langport, Somerset, with his wife and two children.[1] His wife, Rita, is from Italy[12] and their children, one daughter called Frederica and one son called Gregory,[13] were born in 1992 and 1995 respectively.[1] Watson enjoys sailing and jazz music.[1] From 1999 he was editor of "The Parliament Magazine", a role now filled by Catherine Stihler.[2]

Watson was knighted in the 2011 Birthday Honours for political and public service. This follows the precedents under which UK MEPs Henry (now Lord) Plumb and Pauline Green were knighted after having led pan-European political groups in the European Parliament.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Watson, Graham, Andrew Burgess (2012). Letters from Europe. Bagehot Publishing.| ISBN 978-0-9545745-8-1
  • Watson, Graham (2010). Building a Liberal Europe: The ALDE Project. John Harper Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9564508-1-4. 
  • Watson, Graham; Christine Gilmore (2006). The Power of Speech. Bagehot Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9545745-4-3. 
  • Watson, Graham; Simon Titley (2006). Liberalism - Something to Shout About. Bagehot Publishing. 
  • Watson, Graham; Katharine Durrant (2005). Liberal Democracy & Globalisation. Bagehot Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9545745-2-9. 
  • Watson, Graham; Sarah Kent (2004). EU've Got Mail!: Liberal Letters from the European Parliament. Bagehot Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9545745-1-2. 
  • Watson, Graham; Sarah Kent (1989–2003). Liberal Language: Speeches and Essays. Bagehot Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9545745-0-5. 
  • Watson, Graham; Howard Mollet (2001). 2020 Vision. 
  • Watson, Graham; Joanna Hazelwood (2000). To the Power of Ten: UK Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament. Centre for Reform. ISBN 978-1-902622-17-0. 
  • Watson, Graham (1980). The Liberals in the North-South dialogue. 

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Biography: Graham Watson MEP". Graham Watson MEP website. Retrieved 2007-10-07. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "MEP Profile: Graham Watson". European Parliament. Retrieved 2007-10-07. 
  3. ^ "European Election Results For South West England". Graham Watson MEP website. Retrieved 2007-10-07. 
  4. ^ a b "Interview: Graham Watson, leader of group of Liberal Democrat MEPs". Euractiv. 2004-06-15. Retrieved 2007-11-01. 
  5. ^ "European Parliament elects new president". BBC News. 1999-07-20. Retrieved 2007-11-01. 
  6. ^ "European Election Results For South West England". Graham Watson MEP website. Retrieved 2007-10-07. 
  7. ^ "The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe is born". Graham Watson MEP website. 2004-07-14. Retrieved 2007-10-07. 
  8. ^ a b Jones, Chris (2007-10-19). "Watson kicks off EU election campaign". The Parliament Magazine. Retrieved 2007-11-01. 
  9. ^ Watson considers open EP presidency campaign elementary at the Wayback Machine (archived January 23, 2009)
  10. ^ "Labour loses hold in South West". BBC News. 8 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-09. 
  11. ^ a b "Results of 2009 European elections in the UK". UK Office of the European Parliament. 8 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-09. 
  12. ^ "Graham's blog entry 31 August 2007". Graham Watson MEP website. 2007-08-31. Retrieved 2007-10-07. 
  13. ^ "Photo Gallery". Graham Watson MEP website. 2007-08-31. Retrieved 2007-10-07. 

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Pat Cox
Leader of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party in the European Parliament
2002–2004
Position abolished
New office Leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe in the European Parliament
2004–2009
Succeeded by
Guy Verhofstadt
Preceded by
Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck
President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party
2011–present
Incumbent