Meet our new MEPs – Bedtime edition

What a night! Thanks to Mark for his excellent coverage overnight.

The results surpassed my wildest expectations. And the media can just stop with this “triumph for the Brexit Party” narrative. They are effectively a repackaged UKIP which, in 2014, got 27.5% of the vote. They’ve only gained 4.1% on top of that to end up with 31.6%. UKIP’s 3.3% on top of that gives unequivocal Leave 34.9%.  The combined total of Liberal Democrats, Greens, Change UK,  Plaid Cymru and SNP who are all committed to Remain is 40.4%.

You can’t really say with confidence what the Conservative and Labour votes mean. I suspect much of the Labour vote did so with gritted teeth so you could probably add another 10% to Remain which would take the total for Remain to over 50%.

So, enough with this Brexit Party victory narrative.

But enough of that for now. Let’s meet our new MEPs.

As of now, we have 15 new ones – 16 in total and . And they are a diverse bunch – a majority (9) women and two BAME candidates elected.

Two are Newbies who have joined the party since 2015 and one more joined in 2014.

And as Jo Swinson pointed out, we came within 30,000 votes of two more – Sam Bennett and Fiona Hall narrowly missed out in Wales and the North East respectively.

Making up my LIb Dem MEPs Twitter list was pretty satisfying.

So who are our new MEPs? Here are extracts from their biographies on the party website and a few more notes. 

East of England

Barbara Gibson

Barbara lives in Welwyn, Hertfordshire:

Barbara is a lecturer for Birkbeck, University of London, focused on intercultural communication and global business. With more than 25 years’ experience as a business communication professional, she has worked with companies worldwide, and is a past international chair of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). She is immediate past-president of SIETAR UK (the Society for Intercultural Education, Training and Research) and a past International Group Chair of CIPR (the Chartered Institute of Public Relations). She completed her PhD in Intercultural Communication in 2014.

 

Lucy Nethsingha

Lucy Nethsingha is the leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Cambridgeshire County Council and Deputy Chair on the Children and Young People’s Board at the Local Government Association. Lucy chairs the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority Scrutiny Committee, where she has played a key role in scrutinising the work of the Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

Having grown up in Cornwall, where Brittany often felt closer than Westminster, Lucy is a passionate European. Growing up in Cornwall also gave her an early understanding of the importance of caring for the environment. Lucy has been campaigning on Climate Change issues for many years, starting with Surfer’s against Sewage campaigns in the 1990s.

London

Irina von Wiese .

Irina von Wiese is a dual German and British citizen. Her parents and grandparents were refugees from Russia and Eastern Europe. She grew up in Cologne (then still West Germany) and studied law and public administration in Germany, Switzerland and the U.S.

Her first job took her to Brussels, where she worked for the European Commission and gained a valuable insight into the functioning of European institutions. Her experience has fostered her belief in the European project as a guarantor of peace and prosperity.

In 1996, Irina moved to London where she has lived and worked as a competition lawyer since. She is currently working for an international organisation in the ICT sector.

As a Londoner, Irina is passionate about preserving the diversity, openness and tolerance of London communities – values shared by Liberal Democrats. She joined the party in 1998 and stood in several local elections. She has been campaigning for Remain since 2016 and continues her fight to keep Britain at the heart of Europe.

Irina is also a civil rights activist and volunteer for several refugee charities, providing legal advice and shelter for victims of trafficking and modern slavery. She lives in Hammersmith with her teenage daughter and an Ethiopian refugee.

Dinesh Dhamija

Dinesh Dhamija is the founder, former Chairman and CEO, of ebookers.com, one of Europe’s most successful internet travel companies. Educated at Kings School, Canterbury and Fitzwilliam College Cambridge, he worked in various companies including IBM.

He is also an alumni of IMD in Lausanne and Harvard Business School. In 2003, Dinesh was chosen, Entrepreneur of the year (UK), by Management Today magazine and in 2004 awarded Asian Man of the Year. He is a trustee of TiE Global, (an entrepreneurs organisation) based in Silicone Valley, founder of Shiksha, a charity that provides free education to 1100 pupils, founder of Chikitsa, a charity that gives free medicine to 120,000 people a year.

Dinesh joined the Liberal Democratic party in 2014 and 2016 was appointed as a business adviser to the party leader. In 2017, Dinesh became the Deputy Treasurer and in 2018 was elected and Vice Chairman of the Federal Board.

Cllr Luisa Porritt

Luisa is a Liberal Democrat councillor in Camden, having been successfully elected in her first ever election in May 2018. She joined the party after the 2016 referendum. She has since campaigned passionately for the UK to retain its EU membership. In her first year as a councillor, her motion in favour of a People’s Vote was passed by Camden Council.

Luisa is a fluent French speaker and proud Londoner. A former journalist, she has experience working in both the public and private sectors. She currently manages the UK arm of a French financial communications agency and teaches economic history for a university.

South East

Catherine Bearder – the only one who wasn’t a gain…

Catherine Bearder was elected as MEP for South East England in 2009.

She was born in Hertfordshire and worked in the antique trade, as a zoological research assistant in Africa and latterly after children, in the voluntary sector with the Citizens Advice Bureau, Victim Support and National Federation of Women’s Institutes.

She was a councillor on Cherwell District and Oxfordshire County Councils and parliamentary candidate for Banbury in 1997 and Henley in 2001.

She is President of the Green Liberal Democrats and has a special interest in biodiversity protection and fighting human trafficking.

Antony Hook

Antony moved to Kent during his childhood as his father sought new work during the economically difficult times of the 1980s. Both his parents worked in local public services and are now retired. He has one brother who does statistical work for an organisation that promotes excellence in education.

After attending a local grammar school, Antony studied history at University College London, followed by law at City University and the Inns of Court School of Law. He completed his training at leading chambers (a group of barristers) in the capital. He uses the skills he has developed as an advocate and lawyer to help him stand up for Faversham as a councillor.

I am especially pleased to see Antony elected as I worked with him on the Federal Board and found him to be diligent, pragmatic and someone who could disagree well.

Judith Bunting

Before entering politics, Judith was a science journalist and TV producer at the BBC for more than 20 years, directing films on green energy for Tomorrow’s World and quantum physics for Horizon and Discovery. More recently, Judith was co-creator of Magic Hands, the CBeebies television series which is presented in British Sign Language.

Judith studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge University. In 2017, she was selected by the Royal Society of Chemistry to be one of their 175 Faces of Chemistry.

If elected to the European Parliament, Judith will fight to preserve and strengthen workers’ rights. She will work with employers in the South East, especially small businesses, to navigate the confusion around Brexit and she will continue the long, critical campaign to halt climate change.

Judith has previously fought Newbury for the Liberal Democrats.

East Midlands

Bill Newton Dunn

Bill Newton Dunn was first elected MEP for Lincolnshire from 1979 to 1994, and then as MEP for the East Midlands from 1999 to 2014. He crossed the floor to the Liberal Democrats in 2000 because of the ever-worsening Tory approach to “Europe”.

He has written several books, including two full-length biographies. His important political pamphlets drew attention to “the EU’s Democratic Deficit”, pointed out that “Europe Needs an FBI”, and most recently explained “What Do MEPs Do?”, a collection of brief accounts by forty-eight MEPs of seventeen diffferent nationalities.

Yorkshire and the Humber

Shaffaq Mohammed

Shaffaq Mohammed was born in Kashmir, Pakistan and moved to the UK aged 4 with his father, a steelworker, who came to Sheffield to work in the steel mills.

First being elected in Broomhill in 2004, Shaffaq Mohammed is now the leading Liberal Democrat Councillor on Sheffield City Council where he holds the Labour administration to account and fights for a fair deal for all of Sheffield. Recently, Shaffaq has been central to the campaign to save Sheffield’s street trees.

He currently works as a youth worker, helping young people into education and employment in some of the most deprived areas of the city.

West Midlands

Phil Bennion

Phillip was MEP for the West Midlands from 2012-14 and played a leading role in introducing tougher safety standards for lorries following concerns about safety of cyclists and pedestrians. He was described as “someone to be reckoned with in the European Parliament” by President of the European Liberals Hans van Baalen MEP. He was also instrumental in blocking some misguided employment legislation working with Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson, who was the UK minister sitting on the Employment Council at that time. Before he was an MEP he orchestrated the successful campaign to introduce environmental criteria for biomass to prevent virgin forest qualifying as renewable energy.

As the liberal (ALDE) group spokesperson on South Asia he worked hard to try and broker a deal to allow a free and fair election in Bangladesh, intervening to get the deputy opposition leader Fakrul Alamgir released from prison. He also promoted a new initiative on human rights and a political settlement for Kashmir and was an official election observer in Pakistan in 2013.

He is currently an Executive Committee member of the global liberal organisation Liberal International and also sits on its Human Rights Committee. His main area of interest on this committee is democratic rights and he has spoken at the United Nations Human Rights Council calling for the release of political prisoners.

South West

Caroline Voaden

Caroline is a freelance editor, a former Reuters journalist and former small business owner, who has lived in south Devon for 10 years. Her experience of running a small business in Totnes, with the onerous high street overheads and the relentless growth in online shopping, has given Caroline an understanding of the pressures faced by the self-employed and those running small businesses.

Her work as a journalist led her to live in six European countries and she speaks several languages. This experience has given her a deep love of Europe and as such she was devastated by the result of the EU referendum, so she decided to stand with the Lib Dems to try and change the direction our country is heading in. She wants her children to have the same opportunities she had to travel, live and work abroad.

Martin Horwood

Martin Horwood is former MP for Cheltenham, President of the Green Liberal Democrats and a longstanding campaigner against Brexit.

Before serving as Cheltenham’s MP from 2005 until 2015, Martin worked in business and the charity sector – including for Oxfam and as the Alzheimer’s Society’s Director of Fundraising.

As an MP he campaigned for local NHS services, for better rail links across the west country and for the environment. He originated the coalition’s Local Green Space planning policy which is now protecting green spaces important to local communities all over the UK.

Martin was a shadow environment minister in opposition, jointly tabling the amendment in 2008 that raised UK greenhouse gas reduction ambition to 80% and co-authoring the Liberal Democrats’ Zero Carbon Britain policy which called for the country to achieve net zero emissions no later than 2050. He served on the advisory board of the Energy & Climate Change Information Unit which combats fake news about climate change in the media.

North West

Chris Davies

Chris Davies was Liberal Democrat MEP for the North West, 1999-2014, and was twice named ‘Parliamentarian of the Year’ for his work in the environmental field. His priorities now are to use his voice to stop Brexit, campaign for European leadership in curbing climate change, and to prevent the erosion of European democratic values by rogue governments.

As a MEP and team leader on the Parliament’s environment committee he introduced the EU’s largest funding mechanism to combat climate change by supporting development of low CO2 technologies. From 2020 this will be known as the EU Innovation Fund and is expected to be worth more than €10 billion. It is an achievement that entitles him to claim that no candidate in this election has done more in practical terms to fight global warming.

I first met Chris when he was our winning candidate in the Littleborough and Saddleworth by-election in 1995.

His return to office had a tinge of glamour to it:

Jane Brophy

Jane Brophy is an NHS Allied Health Professional working in the field of Dietetics, specialising in diabetes treatment. She is a member of the British Dietetic Association board and holds a degree in Biochemistry.

Jane Brophy has been elected as a Metropolitan Borough Councillor in Trafford for 19 years. Jane was a Parliamentary Candidate for North West England in the 2014 European Election promoting policies to tackle public health and climate change issues, and was the Liberal Democrat Greater Manchester Metro Mayoral Candidate in 2017. She was parliamentary candidate for Altrincham and Sale West at the last three general elections.

Scotland

Sheila Ritchie

I first met Sheila Ritchie in 1985. She was a member of the local party in Aberdeen who was determined to get students involved in local politics. She was a formidable campaigning machine, running Nicol Stephen’s campaigns in the 80s and 90s.

She is someone who is happy to speak truth to power and when she does, power listens.

I was delighted when she was selected as our top of the list candidate in Scotland. It was always going to be a tough job, but she and the other five candidates threw their hearts and souls into delivering an exuberant and joyful campaign.

Sheila Ritchie is the founding partner of a major law firm and was previously a Council Leader in the North East. She has spent over 20 years supporting small start-up businesses and entrepreneurs in the Aberdeen area through her work with the Enterprise Trust, Business Gateway and Elevator. Sheila also served as a Scottish Government appointee from 2000 – 2003 on the European Economic and Social Committee, which involved bi-monthly trips to Brussels for consultation.

Sheila has been a key activist for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, and the Scottish Liberal Party before that, for most of her life. She has worked tirelessly to get more Liberal Democrats elected across the whole of the United Kingdom.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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7 Comments

  • As I said in 2010, when Naomi Long got into the House of Commons, Alliance are our sister party in ALDE and her superb gain should be added to our 16 to make 17.
    It must also be said that ChUK didn’t help the remain cause because they stopped at least 2 more remain MPs getting elected, maybe 3.
    20 would have sounded so much better than 17!
    Still, mustn’t grumble. Two superb result in 3 weeks. Probably the 2 best elections in my 55 years membership of the party.

  • Peter Martin 28th May '19 - 7:43am

    OK but, even if we stay in, who is going to remember these names in a couple of years time?

    Just recently I conducted an experiment in my local pub. 10 out of 12 people knew the name of the local MP. Just one could name any local MEPs and that was because he was in the Labour Party and he’d remembered meeting one of them during the referendum campaign.

    If you’re doubtful just try out the experiment for yourself.

  • Winning an election is only the beginning. What you next and what you try to do next is what matters.

  • I suggest that instead of wondering how many people can remember the names of any of their MEPs, we work to ensure that MEPs feel more relevant to people, and we encourage the media, including social media, to take an interest in what they do.

    This election appears to have had more attention than previous (or it might just be that I was around to watch the news come in), so it’s a promising start for new MEPs, although depressingly predictable that Farage and Widdicome were the MEPs getting most attention.

    Having so many MEPs from parties with fewer MPs is an interesting new movement, and might mean that MEPs not called Nigel might get on Newsnight!

  • David Raw. Indeed. The hardest bit of any project is knowing what you want to do. Then see what resources you have do it – people, money etc. Then match the political aims to the organisational opportunities. There is a lot of urgent discussion needed over the next two or three months – it must not be derailed by a leadership election. Let’s try to hold together celebration, enthusiasm, discipline and some difficult debates about priorities. In a time of crisis, success or failure re-reading the preamble to the constitution always helps!

  • There’s a parliamentary by-election in Peterborough a week on Thursday. What is the party doing about it and who should we contact to help. Surely there’s a risk the Brexit Party could win it and it’s our role to stop them?

  • Richard Underhill 28th May '19 - 12:15pm

    A former MEP for the Labour party was interviewed on BBC News, who said who she had lost her seat to. This is not how the system works. A voter can only choose a list for a political party and cannot prioritise an individual candidate from that list.
    The Italian Radical Party once included a Hungarian porn star on their list who got more votes than their leader.
    The Single Transferable Vote, as used in Northern Ireland, is better.

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