Bridgwater and West Somerset Labour Party today reveals a devastating dossier of incompetence by the Conservative MP Ian Liddell-Grainger. In the short time since the 2017 election, he has repeated a pattern of bluster, rudeness and untruthfulness which has become all too familiar to his constituents. Labour says it’s time for this political dinosaur to go.
Time after time, Liddell-Grainger has failed to help constituents faced with problems – or has made things worse with alarmist and unsubstantiated interventions. Labour has compiled a dossier of recent examples:
Skills and learning crisis: bluster and inaction. Adult education students across Somerset were shocked when a massive funding cut stopped their classes. But when the other four Conservative MPs from Somerset went to the education department to meet a minister, Liddell-Grainger wasn’t there. He said his colleagues had failed to invite him and accused them of incompetence. In fact, he’s the incompetent one and there’s no evidence he has done anything at all to help the students left high and dry.
- Minehead policing: irresponsible scaremongering. Liddell-Grainger alarmed people in Minehead by claiming to have inside information that the police were pulling out of the town. This was simply not true. The police commissioner, Sue Mountstevens, promised the existing police station will not close until new premises are found in the town. And she said Liddell-Grainger had not contacted her in any way about Minehead policing, despite his claim that he would be asking her for an explanation of her plans.
- Universal Credit: fine words and false promises: Bridgwater and West Somerset are pilot areas for Universal Credit – and Labour has found evidence of people slipping into rent arrears and turning to food banks to survive. Liddell-Grainger told a newspaper the system was a mess and made his usual promise to write to the secretary of state. But it seems he sent no letter. A Labour member who raised the Universal Credit issue has asked three times for details of the secretary of state’s reply. There has been no response.
Council merger: crude insults in Parliament. Liddell-Grainger shocked other MPs by using an unrelated debate to launch a crude attack on Taunton Deane council, which is due to merge with West Somerset. He called the council leader “Johnny Rotten” and the chief executive “Cruella De Vil.” The council leader (a Conservative) accused Liddell-Grainger of an “unwarranted and vexatious” attack and said: “There is no substance in any of his claims….I challenge him to make these publicly, not hiding behind the unacceptable screen of Parliamentary privilege.”
- Poor casework: no help, no communication. Liddell-Grainger shuns public events such as election hustings, claiming he spend his time helping constituents. But people with problems report he is no help. One constituent said: “when the Child Support Agency wrongly took £1,000 from my husband, Mr Liddell-Grainger promised to sort it out. Nothing was done and he does not respond to emails etc. We have never had the money back.”
- Employs wife: exploiting a loophole. New MPs are banned from employing family members, a practice the watchdog IPSA says is out of step with modern employment practice. But the rule doesn’t apply to MPs elected before 2017 – a loophole which Liddell-Grainger exploits by employing his wife Jill as a parliamentary assistant. The money he pays her is part of a total expenses claim of more than £188,000 a year.
West Somerset Labour chair Maureen Smith said: “Ian Liddell-Grainger is a throw-back to the rotten boroughs of the past when privileged men, and only men, had an entitlement to a seat in the House of Commons. It is a mystery that such a political dinosaur has survived in a modern parliament. It cannot be said that he represents the residents of the constituency as he takes no notice of issues they bring to him and makes no impression on discourse in the chamber apart from attacking local officials and Conservative councillors. Liddell-Grainger is perpetuating a feudal image of West Somerset and Exmoor which most of us hoped was in the past.”“”