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
Succeeded by Jeff Smith
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 46)
Wakefield, West Yorkshire, England
Nationality British
Political party Liberal Democrat
Alma mater Brunel University
Website http://www.johnleech.org.uk/

John Sampson Macfarlane Leech[1] (born 11 April 1971,[2] Wakefield, West Yorkshire) is a British Liberal Democrat politician. He was the Member of Parliament for Manchester Withington from 2005 to 2015 and is currently the sole opposition member on Manchester City Council. He was one of two MPs to rebel against the 2010 Coalition agreement.

Leech served on the city council from 1998 to 2008. He was elected to the House of Commons in the 2005 general election. In the 2005–2010 Parliament he was a member of the Transport Select Committee and a Shadow Transport Spokesperson on the Liberal Democrat frontbench team in 2006. He held his seat in 2010, and campaigned to pardon Alan Turing in 2013.[3] He lost his seat in 2015 and was elected to Manchester City Council a year later. He is the only opposition member of the 96-member council.

Early life[edit]

Leech grew up in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, where his father was a minister at Chorlton Methodist Church. He attended Manchester Grammar School, Loreto College and Brunel University where he studied History and Politics and also joined the Liberal Democrats. He received an Upper-Second Class Honours degree on 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]

Leech was elected to Manchester City Council in 1998 winning the Barlow Moor ward from Labour with a 12% swing.[4] He was re-elected in 2002, increasing his majority.[5] In 2004, the whole council was contested due to boundary changes and Leech won a seat for Chorlton Park, which covered most of the former Barlow Moor ward area. He became the deputy leader of the council's opposition group and spokesperson for Planning and the Environment.[6]

First term (2005-2010)[edit]

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

In 2006, Leech was the Shadow Transport Spokesperson on the Liberal Democrat frontbench team. He continued in the role under Nick Clegg. He was the first 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 work on road safety in his constituency.[7]

In the 2009 expenses scandal, it was revealed that Leech claimed one of the lowest levels of expenses of any MP in the North of England.[8] He completed more than 111,000 pieces of casework during his ten years in parliament.[9]

Second term (2010-2015)[edit]

Leech was re-elected in the 2010 general election, increasing his majority by three percentage points, defeating Lucy Powell. Leech was one of two Liberal Democrat MPs not to vote for the Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition agreement after the election. The other was former leader Charles Kennedy.[10]

During his second term, Leech rebelled against the party line on several occasions. He was one of 21 Liberal Democrat MPs who voted against the increased tuition fees bill.[11][12] Leech voted against the under-occupancy penalty (commonly called the bedroom tax)[13][14] He voted against a pay rise for MPs in 2013.[15] In early 2015, an article in the Manchester Evening News revealed that Leech was the second most rebellious MP in the North of England.[16]

A poll taken before the 2015 general election placed Leech as the most favourable MP in Greater Manchester with a 92% name recognition rating and an 86% approval rating. In early 2015, he launched his re-election campaign, with the slogan 'Make it 15'.[17] Amid a UK-wide collapse in support for the Liberal Democrats, Leech lost his seat to Labour.[18]

After Parliament (2015-present)[edit]

After losing the seat, Leech said he would stand in the Manchester City Council elections in May 2016.[19] He endorsed Tim Farron for the 2015 Liberal Democrats leadership election.

Leech stood in Didsbury West and won the seat from Labour with a 16% swing, picking up 53% of the vote.[20] Didsbury West was the most contested seat in the city with a high turnout of 45%. The Manchester Evening News described the result as "historic", signifying the first gain for any party in Manchester other than Labour for the first time in six years and provided the city with its first opposition for two years.[21] Tim Farron, hailed Leech's win, saying that "Nobody fought harder this year and nobody deserves to celebrate more today than John Leech and his team." He is the only opposition member of the 2016-18 council, with Labour holding 95 of the 96 seats.

On April 23 he announced his candidacy for Manchester Withington in the 2017 General Election.[22]

Campaigns[edit]

In 2005 Leech campaigned for the Metrolink tram system to come through his constituency.[23] In 2012 it began running through south Manchester, ending at East Didsbury.[24][25][26][27]

Leech campaigned to reduce the stake on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to £2.[28][29] The issue received cross-party support and was supported by campaign groups including Stop The FOBT's.[28] A bill he introduced to have the Statuary Instrument (SI) reduced to £50 FOBT threshold in February 2015 was defeated.[30]

For many years Leech campaigned against homophobia, the need for same-sex marriage, and for homophobia to be stamped out. In 2013, he ran a campaign calling for homophobic chants at football matches to be outlawed.[31][32] In 2013, a letter leaked from his office described a constituent as "ignorant, offensive and homophobic" after he attacked Leech for campaigning on same-sex marriage and to eradicate homophobic chanting at football matches. His stance was welcomed by LGTBQ+ groups.[33]

Leech has been described as the architect of the campaign to pardon Alan Turing[3] who was convicted of homosexuality and later committed suicide.[34] He submitted a bill calling for a formal pardon, and at the UK premiere of a film based on Turing's life, The Imitation Game, the film producers thanked Leech for bringing the topic to public attention and securing Turing's pardon.[35] His campaign then turned to acquiring pardons for the 75,000 other men convicted of the same crime.[36] Leech said it was "utterly disgusting and ultimately just embarrassing" that the conviction was upheld as long as it was, and celebrated the posthumous pardon.[37][38]

Leech led a campaign for safe standing at football matches.[39] Standing had been banned in English football's top two divisions following the Taylor Report into the 1989 Hillsborough Disaster. Leech told the Commons that clubs should be allowed to install 'rail-seating' allowing supporters to stand with the option of sitting down following the lead of countries including Germany, Austria and Sweden that operate safe standing.[39][40][41][42]

Leech campaigned to remain during the 2016 EU referendum. Leech and Tim Farron accused the EU campaigns of ignoring and sidelining the North. On his website, he asked Mancunians to 'send a message to the world that [Manchester] is an open, tolerant, outward-looking, proud and patriotic city'.[43][44]

On 5 October 2016, Leech's questioning during a city council meeting revealed that Manchester had not accepted any refugees under the Government's 2015 resettlement scheme due to disagreements with funding. He accused the council of being "sickeningly shallow"[45] and demanded it commit to housing 50 Syrian refugee families and as many unaccompanied Syrian refugee children as possible. The council was vague in its response but said 'Manchester would play its part.'[46]

Leech has criticised the city council's attitude towards homelessness.[47] In October 2016 he accused the Labour group of playing political football with the lives of Manchester's homeless.

In January 2017, Leech revealed statistics about the number of sexual attacks linked to the dating apps Tinder and Grindr.[48] A week later he launched a campaign demanding safety notices on the apps, accusing the companies of a serious lapse in care.[49][50] In March he called on the council to implement 'Ask for Angela', a scheme to help people get out of uncomfortable situations in bars and pubs[51] to which the council agreed.

Harassment[edit]

In November 2016 police investigated serious threats directed at Leech who was threatened on Twitter in advance of attending a community event. His visit to the centre was changed but he continued to hold surgeries in his ward.[52]

Personal life[edit]

Leech is an amateur dramatics enthusiast (Manchester Road Players). He is a football supporter and season-ticket holder at Manchester City F.C. and a member of the parliamentary Football team.[53]

References[edit]

  1. ^ [1][dead link]
  2. ^ "John Leech". BBC. Retrieved 2007-10-02. [dead link]
  3. ^ a b http://outnewsglobal.com/5090-2/
  4. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/19980614024021/http://www.manchester.gov.uk/election98/index.html
  5. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20040618174506/http://www.manchester.gov.uk/elections/local2004/chorltonpark.htm
  6. ^ "Who's Who - John Leech MP". Liberal Democrats. Retrieved 2008-09-11. 
  7. ^ http://www.libdems.org.uk/ (29 November 2015). "Awards & Accolades". Liberal Democrats. 
  8. ^ Limited, Mesmotronic. "Find out what your UK MP's been claiming for at MPsExpenses.info". 
  9. ^ http://thetab.com/uk/manchester/2016/11/07/half-manchester-residents-ignored-local-mp-23764
  10. ^ "Next Left: John Leech did not vote for the coalition - but who is the third man?". 
  11. ^ http://www.codecomputerlove.com/, Code Computerlove -. "Lib Dem MPs who kept the pledge against tuition fee increases". 
  12. ^ "Lib Dem MP John Leech's speech opposing tuition fee plans". 9 December 2010 – via The Guardian. 
  13. ^ "General Election 2015: Greater Manchester's key constituencies". BBC News. 
  14. ^ http://www.libdems.org.uk/ (1 April 2015). "Did you vote in favour of the 'bedroom tax'?". Liberal Democrats. 
  15. ^ "MPs' pay rise: what does your MP say?". 
  16. ^ Fitzgerald, Todd (13 January 2015). "Revealed: Greater Manchester's most rebellious MPs". 
  17. ^ http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/2015guide/manchesterwithington/
  18. ^ http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/election-2015-john-leech-win-9212091
  19. ^ Fitzgerald, Todd (9 July 2015). "Ousted Withington MP John Leech plans return to council – and Parliament". Manchester Evening News. Trinity Mirror. 
  20. ^ "Local Election - May 2016 Results". manchester.gov.uk. Manchester City Council. 
  21. ^ Fitzgerald, Todd. "Manchester local election results 2016: John Leech ends Labour's total grip on the town hall". Manchester Evening News. Trinity Mirror. 
  22. ^ Staff writer (24 April 2017). "John Leech announces bid to reclaim Manchester Withington seat for Lib Dems". ITV News. ITV Granada. Retrieved 28 April 2017. 
  23. ^ http://www.libdems.org.uk/ (29 June 2015). "Transport". Liberal Democrats. 
  24. ^ "MP confident Metrolink expansion will go ahead". BBC News. 
  25. ^ Kirby, Dean (15 May 2013). "Didsbury village traders' delight at early opening of Metrolink tram line". 
  26. ^ MP, John Leech (26 May 2010). "Metrolink on track!". 
  27. ^ "Didsbury Metrolink Extension under review - News Archive - Fetch Didsbury". 
  28. ^ a b http://www.stopthefobts.org/fairer-gambling-supports-lib-dem-call-to-cut-the-stake-on-fobts-to-2-a-spin/
  29. ^ https://www.ft.com/content/dd44cb1e-2d88-11e2-9988-00144feabdc0
  30. ^ https://www.politicshome.com/news/uk/culture/opinion/campaign-fairer-gambling/69982/fobt-debate-it-reduces
  31. ^ "Lib Dem MP highly commended for campaign to stop homophobic chants at football matches". 
  32. ^ "John Leech tables parliamentary motion about homophobic chants at football matches". 
  33. ^ "Lib Dem MP responds to criticism over anti-homophobia campaign: 'Most people are sick of homophobia'". 
  34. ^ Stevenson, Alex. "Better late than never, Alan Turing is finally pardoned". 
  35. ^ "My proudest day as a Liberal Democrat". 
  36. ^ http://www.libdems.org.uk/ (27 June 2015). "Justice with Turing". Liberal Democrats. 
  37. ^ "MP calls for pardon for computer pioneer Alan Turing". BBC News. 
  38. ^ "Lib Dem MP John Leech: 'Alan Turing's contribution to Manchester was enormous'". 
  39. ^ a b Keegan, Mike (16 December 2013). "South Manchester MP leads football safe standing calls". 
  40. ^ staff, Guardian (22 August 2014). "Lib Dems propose plans for safe standing at Premier League grounds" – via The Guardian. 
  41. ^ http://www.libdems.org.uk/ (15 October 2014). "Safe standing would cut the cost of football - John Leech MP". Liberal Democrats. 
  42. ^ correspondent, Richard Conway BBC Radio 5 live sports news. "Safe standing: Lib Dems make 2015 General Election pledge". 
  43. ^ http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/lib-dem-leader-urges-mancunians-11459387
  44. ^ http://manchestergazette.co.uk/eu-campaign-accused-of-sidelining-the-north-1426/
  45. ^ http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/calls-manchester-take-50-syrian-11984628
  46. ^ http://thetab.com/uk/manchester/2016/11/07/manchester-yet-accept-single-syrian-refugee-23463
  47. ^ http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/manchester-council-branded-shameless-after-12302260
  48. ^ http://manchestergazette.co.uk/rise-of-dating-app-sexual-assaults-in-greater-manchester-2915/
  49. ^ http://www.johnleech.org.uk/former_manchester_mp_declares_war_on_dating_apps_after_uncovering_distressing_rise_in_related_sexual_assaults
  50. ^ http://globaldatinginsights.com/2017/01/18/former-manchester-mp-calling-for-tinder-and-grindr-to-up-safety-measures/?platform=hootsuite
  51. ^ http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/ask-angela-new-code-word-12777657#comments-section
  52. ^ http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/police-investigate-after-lib-dem-12142233
  53. ^ Leech, John. "Frequently Asked Questions". Official website. Archived from the original on 7 September 2008. 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