John Leech (politician)

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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 (Lab)
Succeeded by Jeff Smith (Lab)
Majority 1,894 (4.21%)
Member of Manchester City Council for Barlow Moor & Chorlton Park
In office
7 May 1998 – 8 May 2008
Preceded by Arthur Maloney (Lab)
Succeeded by Bernie Ryan (LD)
Majority 892 (30.8%)
Member of Manchester City Council for Didsbury West
Assumed office
5 May 2016
Preceded by Carl Ollerhead (Lab)
Majority 702 (16.09%)
Personal details
Born (1971-04-11) 11 April 1971 (age 45)
Hastings, East Sussex, England
Nationality British
Political party Liberal Democrat
Alma mater Brunel University

John Sampson Macfarlane 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 councilor for Barlow Moor and Chorlton Park Ward 1998 until elected as Member of Parliament (MP) for Manchester Withington in 2005 where he remained until 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 lost his Parliamentary seat in 2015 but was elected back to Manchester Council in 2016 with 53% of the vote. He currently stands as the sole opposition member on Manchester City Council facing 95 Labour councillors.


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]


During and after the 2009 expenses scandal, John Leech's expense claims were without controversy.[6] Most of his expenses were to cover office and staff expenses.[6] Leech had one of the lowest expenses in the North of England and voted against MP's having a pay rise in 2013.[7]


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.[8]

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.[9]

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.[10] 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." [11] 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.[12]

Spare Room Subsidy / Bedroom Tax[edit]

Leech voted against the 'Bedroom Tax' [13] stating: "It is a tax that targets the poor and I wouldn't let it pass under my watch." [14]


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 into 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 successful, securing 61% of the vote.

2004 local election[edit]

In 2004 Manchester faced all out elections due to ward boundary changes. 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]

John Leech was elected MP for Manchester Withington on his first attempt with a swing of over 17% from Labour to Liberal Democrats - the largest in the country that year.[15] His election was thought to be partly due to the Iraq War Labour Backlash as well as a strong local government base, and popular name recognition built up over the years of being a local councillor.[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 Evening News 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'. [18] John Leech stood in Didsbury West, one of the seven wards within his former Parliamentary constituency. He was elected with 53% of the vote, overturning an 810 Labour majority into a 702 majority for himself.[19] Didsbury West was the most contested seat in the city with an unusually high turnout of 45% - thought to be because of the high-profile campaigns run by both major parties (Liberal Democrats & Labour). He stands as the sole opposition on Manchester City Council. His win in Manchester signified the first gain for any party other than Labour for the first time in six years, providing the city with its first opposition for two years.

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.[20] At the UK premiere of the film based upon Turing's life, The Imitation Game, the film producers publicly thanked John for his work in bringing the topic to public attention and successfully securing Turing's pardon.[21] John's campaign then turned to pardoning the 75,000 other men criminally convicted.[22] Leech was quoted saying it was "utterly disgusting and ultimately just embarrassing" that the conviction was upheld as long as it was, and celebrated the posthumous pardon.[23][24]

Campaign for Safe Standing[edit]

Leech led a high-profile campaign for Safe Standing.[25] 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.[25][26][27][28]

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.[29] 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.[30][31][32][33]

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.[34][35] gave him the runner-up position in the magazine's monthly ‘top MP’ honour for his tireless work.[34] 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]


2015 Party Leadership Contest[edit]

John Leech supported Tim Farron in the 2015 Liberal Democrat party leadership contest.[38]

2017 Greater Manchester Mayoral Election[edit]

John Leech supported Trafford Councillor Jane Brophy, the Liberal Democrats candidate, in the 2017 Greater Manchester Mayoral Election.[39]

2017 Liverpool and Merseyside Mayoral Election[edit]

John Leech supported Knowsley Councillor Carl Cashman, the Liberal Democrats candidate, in the 2017 Liverpool and Merseyside Mayoral Election.[40]

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.[41]


  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. ^ "Popular Manchester MP John Leech could 'lose seat' as Lib Dems face another election mauling, poll shows - Mancunian Matters". 
  5. ^ (29 November 2015). "Awards & Accolades". Liberal Democrats. 
  6. ^ a b Limited, Mesmotronic. "Find out what your UK MP's been claiming for at". 
  7. ^ "MPs' pay rise: what does your MP say?". 
  8. ^ Fitzgerald, Todd (13 January 2015). "Revealed: Greater Manchester's most rebellious MPs". 
  9. ^ "Next Left: John Leech did not vote for the coalition - but who is the third man?". 
  10. ^, Code Computerlove -. "Lib Dem MPs who kept the pledge against tuition fee increases". 
  11. ^ "Lib Dem MP John Leech's speech opposing tuition fee plans". 9 December 2010 – via The Guardian. 
  12. ^ "Liar Liar: NUS billboard shames Manchester Lib Dems who broke tuition fee pledge - Mancunian Matters". 
  13. ^ "General Election 2015: Greater Manchester's key constituencies". BBC News. 
  14. ^ (1 April 2015). "Did you vote in favour of the 'bedroom tax'?". Liberal Democrats. 
  15. ^ (26 November 2015). "About". Liberal Democrats. 
  16. ^ "John Leech". 
  17. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 6 February 2013. Retrieved 13 May 2010. 
  18. ^ Fitzgerald, Todd (9 July 2015). "Ousted Withington MP John Leech plans return to council – and Parliament". 
  19. ^ Council, Manchester City. "Local Election - May 2016 Results - Local Election - May 2016 Results - Manchester City Council". 
  20. ^ Stevenson, Alex. "Better late than never, Alan Turing is finally pardoned". 
  21. ^ "My proudest day as a Liberal Democrat". 
  22. ^ (27 June 2015). "Justice with Turing". Liberal Democrats. 
  23. ^ "MP calls for pardon for computer pioneer Alan Turing". BBC News. 
  24. ^ "Lib Dem MP John Leech: 'Alan Turing's contribution to Manchester was enormous'". 
  25. ^ a b Keegan, Mike (16 December 2013). "South Manchester MP leads football safe standing calls". 
  26. ^ staff, Guardian (22 August 2014). "Lib Dems propose plans for safe standing at Premier League grounds" – via The Guardian. 
  27. ^ (15 October 2014). "Safe standing would cut the cost of football - John Leech MP". Liberal Democrats. 
  28. ^ correspondent, Richard Conway BBC Radio 5 live sports news. "Safe standing: Lib Dems make 2015 General Election pledge". 
  29. ^ (29 June 2015). "Transport". Liberal Democrats. 
  30. ^ "MP confident Metrolink expansion will go ahead". BBC News. 
  31. ^ Kirby, Dean (15 May 2013). "Didsbury village traders' delight at early opening of Metrolink tram line". 
  32. ^ MP, John Leech (26 May 2010). "Metrolink on track!". 
  33. ^ "Didsbury Metrolink Extension under review - News Archive - Fetch Didsbury". 
  34. ^ a b "Lib Dem MP highly commended for campaign to stop homophobic chants at football matches". 
  35. ^ "John Leech tables parliamentary motion about homophobic chants at football matches". 
  36. ^ "Lib Dem MP responds to criticism over anti-homophobia campaign: 'Most people are sick of homophobia'". 
  37. ^ "Awards & Accolades". John Leech. 2015-11-29. Retrieved 2016-01-25. 
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^ 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
Succeeded by
Jeff Smith