John Leech (politician)

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Cllr.
John Leech
John Leech canvassing in south Manchester.png
Member of Parliament
for Manchester Withington
In office
5 May 2005 – 30 March 2015
Preceded by Keith Bradley
Succeeded by Jeff Smith
Majority 1,894 (4.21%)
Personal details
Born (1971-04-11) 11 April 1971 (age 45)
Hastings, Sussex, England
Nationality British
Political party Liberal Democrat
Alma mater Brunel University
Website http://www.johnleech.org.uk/

John Sampson Macfarlane Bosworth Leech[1] (born 11 April 1971,[2] Hastings, East Sussex) is a British Liberal Democrat politician and councillor for Didsbury West on Manchester City Council. He was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Manchester Withington from 2005 to 2015. In the 2005–2010 Parliament he was a member of the Transport Select Committee and was appointed a Shadow Transport Spokesperson in 2006. He currently stands as the sole opposition member on Manchester City Council against 95 Labour councillors.

Background[edit]

Leech grew up in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, where his father became a Minister at Chorlton Methodist Church. He went to the independent Manchester Grammar School in Fallowfield, Loreto College in Hulme, and Brunel University in Uxbridge where he studied History and Politics and also joined the Liberal Democrat Party. He received an Upper-Second Class Honours degree upon graduating. After leaving university he worked as a trainee manager for McDonald's and part-time at the RAC in Stretford as a call centre insurance claims handler.

Political career[edit]

In 1998 Leech was elected to Manchester City Council, as a Councillor for Barlow Moor and later for Chorlton Park following boundary changes to the ward. He was Deputy Leader of the council's Opposition Group, acting as a spokesperson for Planning and the Environment.[3]

Leech was elected at the 2005 general election, unexpectedly defeating Keith Bradley, the incumbent Labour Party MP, by a swing of over 17% - the largest swing in the country that year. Leech became the first Liberal or Liberal Democrat to win a Manchester seat since 1929

John Leech was always a very favourable Member of Parliament and polls consistently placed him as one of the most liked MPs in the North.[4] During his time as MP, he won numerous awards for his work; notably the first ever Patchwork MP of the Year for his "tireless work with minority and ethnic groups" and Brake's MP of the Year and MP of the Month, twice, for his work surrounding road safety in his constituency, which included the inputting of several 20 mph zones by schools.[5]

Rebellions[edit]

An article published by the Manchester Evening News in early 2015 revealed that Leech was the second most rebellious MP in the North of England voting against his own party, whip and Government many times.[6]

Liberal Democrat-Conservative Coalition[edit]

Following the general election of 2010, no one political party was able to secure a majority in the House of Commons. As a result, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats entered into negotiations with each other to form the United Kingdom's first coalition government since the Second World War. Leech was one of only two MPs not to vote for the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition agreement formed by party leader Nick Clegg in 2010. The other MP was former leader Charles Kennedy.[7]

Tuition Fees[edit]

Leech was also one of the 21 Liberal Democrat MPs who kept their pledge to vote against the increased tuition fees bill.[8] Leech said the increase could "discourage some young people from going to university in the future" and that he "benefited from a free education and left university with a very small level of debt. So frankly I am not about to vote to leave future graduates with tens of thousands of pounds of debt." [9] Leech argued that the NUS 'Liar Liar' campaign should not be mounted in Manchester since he was the only Liberal Democrat MP in the city and he had voted against the increase. Despite this, the NUS 'Liar Liar' campaign went ahead, though singled out neighbouring MPs Mark Hunter and Andrew Stunell instead.[10]

Spare Room Subsidy / Bedroom Tax[edit]

Leech voted against the 'Bedroom Tax' [11] stating: "It is a tax that targets the poor and I wouldn't let it pass under my watch." [12]

Elections[edit]

John Leech has been campaigning in south Manchester for over 25 years. He began campaigning for Yasmin Zalzala, the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for the 1997 and 2001 general elections. He first stood for election himself in the 1998 local elections.

1998 local election[edit]

John Leech first stood for election in Barlow Moor ward (now split in to Didsbury West and Chorlton Park) in 1998. He was elected with 58% of the vote.

2002 local election[edit]

In 2002, Leech stood for re-election in his Barlow Moor ward. He was elected with an increased majority securing 61% of the vote.

2004 local election[edit]

In 2004 Manchester faced all out elections due to boundary and name changes to wards. Leech stood in Chorlton Park which covered most of his former Barlow Moor ward. He was re-elected with 48% of the vote.

2005 general election[edit]

During the 2005 General Election campaign Leech mounted a 'Save Christie Hospital' campaign, focusing on concern at the possible movement of cancer services away from one of Europe's largest cancer treatment centres. Labour Party supporters alleged that these concerns were unfounded and that there was never any risk to the hospital.

In April 2005, the Manchester Evening News reported that sixty doctors had signed a petition calling on the Greater Manchester Strategic Health Authority not to move services away from Christie as part of a review of services.[13] The doctors cited concerns that a dislocation of services from the Christie Hospital could jeopardise patient outcomes and their campaign was supported by both the University of Manchester and Cancer Research UK.[14]

The campaign was taken up by Leech as well as the Conservative Party Shadow Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley. The CEO of Christie Hospital at the time thanked John for the campaign, and for his ongoing support of the hospital.

The debate between Labour and Liberal Democrat party members about the validity of Leech's claims has continued since the election. Leech took a petition of 1,500 residents to the Strategic Health Authority over the threat while Labour supporters organised a separate petition of local residents to request an explanation from Leech over his conduct.[15]

A Freedom of Information Enquiry revealed that there were plans to move cancer services from Christie Hospital in Manchester to hospitals in London, thus rendering Christie hospital redundant in Manchester. All cases against Leech were dropped following this revelation.

John Leech was elected MP for Manchester Withington with a swing of over 17% - the largest in the country that year.[16]

2010 general election[edit]

At the general election held on 6 May 2010 John Leech was re-elected the Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament, after a close contest with rival Lucy Powell (Labour Co-operative), increasing his majority to 1,894 following a swing of 2.4% from Labour to the Liberal Democrats.[17]

2015 general election[edit]

In 2015 the Liberal Democrats faced a national collapse of support across the country. In early 2015 John Leech launched his re-election campaign entitled 'Make it 15'. Despite a strong campaign battle widely acclaimed by press, critics and constituents, securing nearly 12,000 votes, Leech lost his seat to Labour. Within three weeks of losing his seat, Leech confirmed he would stand fewer than 12 months later in the Manchester City Council local elections in May 2016.

2016 local election[edit]

Just a few weeks after losing his seat in the 2015 General Election, Leech confirmed he would stand in the Manchester local elections on 5 May 2016. The Manchester Gazette broke the news with Leech stating; 'I promised not to give up on the residents of Manchester Withington, and I'm not going to. I will continue to fight for south Manchester as I always have done'. John Leech stood in Didsbury West, his original ward prior to becoming an MP and was elected with 53% of the vote, overturning an 810 Labour majority into a 702 majority for himself. He stands as the sole opposition on Manchester City Council.

Notable work[edit]

During John Leech's 25 years in public office, he has been at the forefront of numerous campaigns.

Campaign to Pardon Alan Turing[edit]

Leech's most prominent campaign was that in attempt to pardon WWII scientist, Alan Turing who was convicted of homosexuality, later committing suicide.[18] At the UK premier of the film based upon Turing's life, The Imitation Game, the producers publicly thanked John for his work in bringing the topic to public minds and successfully getting Turing pardoned.[19] John's campaign then turned to pardoning the 75,000 other men criminally convicted.[20] Leech was said it was "utterly disgusting and embarrassing" that the conviction was upheld as long as it was and celebrated the posthumous pardon.[21][22]

Campaign for Safe Standing[edit]

Leech led a high-profile campaign for Safe Standing.[23] Standing had been banned in English football's top two divisions following the Taylor Report into the 1989 Hillsborough Disaster. Leech toll the Commons that clubs should be allowed to install 'rail-seating' which allows supporters to stand with the option of sitting down following the lead of countries including Germany, Austria and Sweden that operate safe standing which can often reduce ticket prices.[24][25][26][27]

Campaign for Metrolink[edit]

In 2005 Leech made an election pledge that if elected he would ensure the Metrolink tram system would come through his constituency.[28] Leech campaigned for many years on the issue and in 2012 it was finally delivered two years behind schedule, running through south Manchester, ending at East Didsbury.[29][30][31][32]

Anti Homophobia[edit]

For many years Leech has campaigned against homophobia, speaking passionately in Parliament about the need for same sex marriage, and for homophobia to be stamped out. In 2013, he ran a high-profile campaign calling for homophobic chants at football matches to be outlawed.[33][34] Politics.co.uk gave him the runner-up position in the magazine's monthly ‘top MP’ honour for his tireless work.[35] Also in 2013, a letter leaked from Leech's office saw the MP slam one of his constituents as "ignorant, offensive and homophobic" after the constituent attacked Leech for campaigning on same sex marriage and to eradicate homophobic chanting at football matches. Leech's stance and strongly worded letter was welcomed by LGTBQ+ groups.[36]

Awards & Accolades[edit]

John Leech was a highly respected local MP both in and out of Parliament, he completed more than 111,000 pieces of casework and is the constituency's most-awarded MP to date. Most notably, he won the first ever Liberal Democrat 'MP of the Year' award, for his 'tireless work with minority and disadvantaged groups'. He also won other awards that include 'Road Safety MP of the Year' amongst others.[37]

Personal life[edit]

Leech is an amateur dramatics enthusiast (Manchester Road Players), and his late father was a Methodist minister. Leech is also a football supporter, and season-ticket holder, following Manchester City F.C. and an enthusiastic member of the Parliamentary Football team.[38]

References[edit]

  1. ^ [1][dead link]
  2. ^ "John Leech". BBC. Retrieved 2007-10-02. [dead link]
  3. ^ "Who's Who - John Leech MP". Liberal Democrats. Retrieved 2008-09-11. 
  4. ^ http://www.mancunianmatters.co.uk/content/020769597-popular-manchester-mp-john-leech-could-lose-seat-lib-dems-face-another-election
  5. ^ http://www.johnleech.org.uk/awards
  6. ^ http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/revealed-greater-manchesters-most-rebellious-8439048
  7. ^ http://www.nextleft.org/2010/09/john-leech-voted-against-coalition-but.html
  8. ^ http://www.nus.org.uk/en/news/lib-dem-mps-who-voted-against-the-plans-aka-kept-the-pledge/
  9. ^ https://www.theguardian.com/education/2010/dec/09/lib-dem-john-leech-tuition-fees
  10. ^ http://www.mancunianmatters.co.uk/content/230473271-liar-liar-nus-billboard-shames-manchester-lib-dems-who-broke-tuition-fee-pledge
  11. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2015-england-32115934
  12. ^ http://www.johnleech.org.uk/did_you_vote_in_favour_of_the_bedroom_tax
  13. ^ Camber, Rebecca (2005-04-15). "Christie fury at shake-up talks". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 2006-08-16. 
  14. ^ Camber, Rebecca (2005-04-16). "Support for docs in Christie storm". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 2006-08-16. 
  15. ^ "MP Ambushed by red card petition over cancer wards". South Manchester Reporter. Retrieved 2006-08-08. 
  16. ^ http://www.politics.co.uk/reference/john-leech
  17. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 6 February 2013. Retrieved 13 May 2010. 
  18. ^ http://www.politics.co.uk/news/2013/12/24/better-late-than-never-alan-turing-is-finally-pardoned
  19. ^ http://www.libdemvoice.org/my-proudest-day-as-a-liberal-democrat-43430.html
  20. ^ http://www.johnleech.org.uk/turingjustice
  21. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-16833621
  22. ^ http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2013/12/24/lib-dem-mp-john-leech-alan-turings-contribution-to-manchester-was-enormous/
  23. ^ http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/south-manchester-mp-john-leech-6410717
  24. ^ https://www.theguardian.com/global/2014/aug/22/lib-dems-propose-plans-safe-standing-premier-league
  25. ^ http://www.libdems.org.uk/safe_standing_would_cut_the_cost_of_football
  26. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/28886330
  27. ^ http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/south-manchester-mp-john-leech-6410717
  28. ^ http://www.johnleech.org.uk/transport
  29. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10164472
  30. ^ http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/didsbury-village-traders-delight-early-3822551
  31. ^ https://johnleechmp.wordpress.com/2010/05/26/metrolink-on-track/
  32. ^ http://didsbury.mcr.community/news/metrolink-extension-review
  33. ^ http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2013/06/05/lib-dem-mp-highly-commended-for-campaign-to-stop-homophobic-chants-at-football-matches/
  34. ^ http://www.libdemvoice.org/john-leech-tables-parliamentary-motion-about-homophobic-chants-at-football-matches-34142.html
  35. ^ http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2013/06/05/lib-dem-mp-highly-commended-for-campaign-to-stop-homophobic-chants-at-football-matches/
  36. ^ http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2013/07/22/lib-dem-mp-responds-to-criticism-over-anti-homophobia-campaign-most-people-are-sick-of-homophobia/
  37. ^ http://www.libdems.org.uk/ (2015-11-29). "Awards & Accolades". John Leech. Retrieved 2016-01-25. 
  38. ^ Leech, John. "Frequently Asked Questions". Official website. Retrieved 2008-10-25. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Keith Bradley
Member of Parliament for Manchester, Withington
20052015
Succeeded by
Jeff Smith