As we approach 2015 and look forward to the election in May, it is perhaps a good time for people in Bridgwater and West Somerset, of whatever political persuasion, to consider whether the re-election of our Member of Parliament, Ian Liddell-Grainger, would be a good result.
The recent revelation of a photograph doctored to remove a Conservative council leader was, on one level, trivial. But it revealed a lot. A typical reaction from people in West Somerset was “I wish I could say I’m surprised.” Because the sad fact is that childish insults are Liddell-Grainger’s stock in trade.
During the floods last year, most people wanted to work together to solve the problem. Liddell-Grainger’s contribution was to describe the head of the Environment Agency, Chris Smith, as a “little git” and to threaten to “stick his head down the loo and flush.” He also – somewhat obscurely – described Environment Agency staff as “bush hookers.”
Badger Hunt Protestors-‘scroungers’, the young-‘just shut up’
During the badger cull in West Somerset, many people were opposed to the killing on the grounds that it was inhumane and unscientific. Liddell-Grainger had this to say about those he called the pro-badger tendency: “I thought most of them were in the habit of lying in bed until the pubs open, or until the postman arrives with the benefit cheque…. they are all malingerers and scroungers.”
And Liddell-Grainger does not set a good example to the young. At a question and answer question with sixth form students, he told one of them: “Just shut up. Get your brain in gear. Gob shut.” He was being asked on that occasion about the fact that he had been found writing emails to himself and then replying to them on the “Write to Them” website.
That’s one of several aspects of Liddell-Grainger’s work where the difference between reality and fantasy seems to be a little blurred. During the doctored-photo controversy, he claimed to have had “more rows with the prime minister than I’ve had with Tim Taylor.” Are we seriously supposed to believe that David Cameron knows or cares what Liddell-Grainger thinks about any subject, or could be bothered to argue with him?
Liddell-Grainger claims to work hard for his constituents. But many have a different story. A resident of Old Cleeve wrote in the West Somerset Free Press recently that she had sent three letters to him without reply. Her experience is typical. Every time the subject is raised, people come forward to say they have been ignored.
Even when he does reply and say he is taking up a case, his actions are questionable. Last year, he claimed to have written to the Chancellor, George Osborne, on behalf of tenants threatened with eviction by the Crown Estate. A Dunster parish councillor carried out exhaustive research to find out whether any such letter had been sent. He concluded Liddell-Grainger had not written to the Chancellor and challenged him, on the letters pages of the Free Press, to explain himself. There was no reply.
‘Insults his opponents and ignores his constituents’
But Liddell-Grainger doesn’t just insult his opponents and ignore his constituents. He also manages to alienate politicians of his own party . West Somerset’s council leader Tim Taylor exercised restraint when he said “our councillors and officers deserve much greater support and encouragement from our MP than they have received to date.” Another Conservative councillor, Susan Goss, accused Liddell-Grainger of – among other things – a blatant attempt to deprive the district of business rates.
Our MP is employed at a cost, of course. In 2012-13 Liddell-Grainger received nearly a quarter of a million pounds in pay and expanses. £244,613 to be precise. He said his expenses were so high because: “I have to be seen in Watchet, Williton, Minehead, Dunster and all the way to Tarr Steps.”
His staff costs were £127,952, including £30,000 for his wife. His researcher, Ed, is also presumably on the payroll. Ed, you may remember, is the chap with a love of practical jokes (and awful Photoshop skills) who created the notorious doctored photograph. Wherever Ed works, it’s not at the House of Commons. Liddell-Grainger has only three people registered as staff and holding House of Commons passes. They are Jill Liddell-Grainger, May Liddell-Grainger and Peter Liddell-Grainger.
This rude, shallow, evasive man has represented Bridgwater and West Somerset for far too long. Labour’s candidate Mick Lerry genuinely works hard for those he represents, as a councillor and union official. If we elect him as our MP, he will work for us.
West Somerset Labour Party