Graham Watson: Wikis


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Graham Watson MEP

In office
13 July 2004 – 1 July 2009
Preceded by group formed
Succeeded by Guy Verhofstadt

Assumed office 
19 July 2004
Preceded by new constituency

In office
6 January 2002 – 13 July 2004
Preceded by Pat Cox
Succeeded by group dissolved

In office
20 July 1999 – 18 July 2004
Preceded by new constituency
Succeeded by constituency abolished

In office
18 July 1994 – 20 July 1999
Preceded by new constituency
Succeeded by constituency abolished
Majority 22,500

Born 23 March 1956 (1956-03-23) (age 53)
United Kingdom Rothesay, United Kingdom
Nationality British
Political party Liberal Democrats / ELDR
Spouse(s) Rita Watson
Children 1 daughter and 1 son
Residence Langport, United Kingdom
Alma mater Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh
Occupation Politician
Profession Interpreter, Banker, Politician

Graham Watson MEP (born 23 March 1956) is a European politician from the United Kingdom. He has served as a Member of the European Parliament for South West England since 1994 and was leader of the liberal group in Parliament for seven years between 2002 and 2009.[1]


Early life

Graham Watson was born in Rothesay on the Isle of Bute (Scotland, United Kingdom). His father was an officer in the Royal Navy and his mother a teacher. Watson was educated at the City of Bath Boys' School, which became the comprehensive Beechen Cliff School before he left, where he played violin in the school orchestra. He later returned to Scotland to attend the Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh where he graduated in 1979 with a Bachelor of Arts in modern languages.[1] This allowed him to work as an interpreter between 1979 and 1980,[2] he now speaks four European languages.[1] After 1980 he worked as an administrator at Paisley College until 1983.[2]

Watson had begun his political activity when he joined the International Federation of Liberal Youth, becoming a vice-president (1977) then General Secretary (1979) of the organisation.[2] He was a founder of the European Communities' Youth Forum.[1] He became a council member of the Party of European Liberals and Democrats between 1983 and 1993.[2] Between 1983 and 1987 he also served as head of the private office of then leader of the British Liberal Party, Sir David Steel.[1]

Following his work with Steel, then began work for the bank HSBC in London and Hong Kong. His work there included three months with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and gave him an interest in the Far East, he is now an adviser to the Asia Pacific Public Affairs Forum.[1]

European Parliament

Immediately after his work with HSBC, he returned to the Liberal Democrats for the 1994 European Parliamentary election. He was elected for Somerset and North Devon with a majority of over 22,500. Watson,[1] along with Robin Teverson for Cornwall and West Plymouth,[3] became the first liberals returned from a British constituency to serve in the European Parliament. Watson and Teverson sat with the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party (ELDR) Group.[1] During this term, Watson served on two committees; the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and Industrial Policy and the Committee on Budgets,[1] and acted as whip for the ELDR group until 1996.[2]


Second term

In 1999 the introduction of proportional representation in the UK for European elections meant Watson's constituency was abolished in favour of a larger multi-member constituency encompassing South West England. The South West constituency would later also include Gibraltar in 2004. Watson was re-elected in this constituency as the sole liberal member during the 1999 European Parliamentary election. He had gained 171,398 votes, 15.7% of the total behind both Labour and the Conservatives (1 and 4 seats respectively).[4] During this term he led the British liberals in the parliament[2] and between 1999 to 2002 he held the chair of the Committee on Citizens' Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs.[1]

During this parliamentary term the ELDR Group were in coalition with the European People's Party–European Democrats (EPP–ED).[5] As per a usual agreement between the majority alliance, the term of President of the European Parliament is split between the two parties, giving the then-leader of the ELDR Group, Pat Cox MEP, the Presidency from 2002.[6] When he took up the post, Watson was elected to succeed him as leader of the ELDR Group.[1]

Third term

Watson was re-elected once more following the 2004 European Parliamentary election with 265,619 votes (18.3%) behind the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) with 326,784 votes (22.6% giving two seats) and the Conservatives with 457,371 votes (31.6% giving three seats). Labour had fallen behind the Liberals to 209,908 votes (14.5%) but still retained one seat.[7]

Following the election, the ELDR entered into an alliance with the newly formed European Democratic Party to form the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. The ALDE group replaced the ELDR group (though ELDR and EDP exist as separate parties outside the Parliament) and Watson was elected leader of the new ALDE group which was the largest group ever established in the Parliament outside of the European People's Party and Party of European Socialists.[8]

In 2007 Watson addressed the ELDR congress stating he wished to break the current left-right grand coalition.[9] He had previously been critical of this and welcomed the centre-right alliance his group had formed for the fifth term.[5] Watson liked the Socialists to poodles of the People's Party in their alliance. He cited in contrast the strength of the ALDE group in the Parliament and the Commission and that after 2009, the liberals would have strong candidates for the Commission. He also stated that the party would be moving towards Europe-wide campaigning rather than separate national campaigns.[9]

On 7 January 2009 he announced that he would be a candidate for the office of President of the European Parliament after the elections in June 2009[10]

Fourth term

Watson was elected to a fourth term as an MEP for the South West in the European Parliament elections of June 2009,[11] with 266,253 votes (17.07%).[12] The Conservatives gained 468,742 votes (30.05%), winning three seats; the United Kingdom Independence Party gained 341,845 votes (21.92%), winning two seats; The Green Party gained 144,179 votes (9.24%), winning no seats; The Labour Party gained 118,716 votes (7.61%), winning no seats; 11 other parties and one independent gained 219,973 votes (14.10%), winning no seats.[12]

Other activities and family

Watson now lives in Langport, Somerset, with his wife and two children.[1] His wife, Rita, is from Italy[13] and their children, one daughter called Frederica and one son called Gregory,[14] were born in 1992 and 1995 respectively.[1] He also has a dog called Brillig.[14] Watson enjoys sailing and jazz music.[1] From 1999 he was editor of "The Parliament Magazine", a role now filled by Brian Johnson.[2]


  • Watson, Graham; Christine Gilmore (2006). The Power of Speech. Bagehot Publishing. ISBN 978-0954574543. 
  • Watson, Graham; Simon Titley (2006). Liberalism - Something to Shout About. Bagehot Publishing. 
  • Watson, Graham; Katharine Durrant (2005). Liberal Democracy & Globalisation. Bagehot Publishing. ISBN 978-0954574529. 
  • Watson, Graham; Sarah Kent (2004). EU've Got Mail!: Liberal Letters from the European Parliament. Bagehot Publishing. ISBN 978-0954574512. 
  • Watson, Graham; Sarah Kent (1989-2003). Liberal Language: Speeches and Essays. Bagehot Publishing. ISBN 978-0954574505. 
  • Watson, Graham; Howard Mollet (2001). 2020 Vision. 
  • Watson, Graham; Joanna Hazelwood (2000). To the Power of Ten: UK Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament. Centre for Reform. ISBN 978-1902622170. 
  • Watson, Graham (1980). The Liberals in the North-South dialogue. 


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Biography: Graham Watson MEP". Graham Watson MEP website. Retrieved 2007-10-07. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "MEP Profile: Graham Watson". European Parliament. Retrieved 2007-10-07. 
  3. ^ Cracknell, Richard; Bryn Morgan (1999-06-02). "European Parliament Elections 1979 to 1994" (PDF). House of Commons Library. Retrieved 2007-10-07. 
  4. ^ "European Election Results For South West England". Graham Watson MEP website. Retrieved 2007-10-07. 
  5. ^ a b "Interview: Graham Watson, leader of group of Liberal Democrat MEPs". Euractiv. 2004-06-15. Retrieved 2007-11-01. 
  6. ^ "European Parliament elects new president". BBC News. 1999-07-20. Retrieved 2007-11-01. 
  7. ^ "European Election Results For South West England". Graham Watson MEP website. Retrieved 2007-10-07. 
  8. ^ "The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe is born". Graham Watson MEP website. 2004-07-14. Retrieved 2007-10-07. 
  9. ^ a b Jones, Chris (2007-10-19). "Watson kicks off EU election campaign". The Parliament Magazine. Retrieved 2007-11-01. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Labour loses hold in South West". BBC News. 8 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-09. 
  12. ^ a b "Results of 2009 European elections in the UK". UK Office of the European Parliament. 8 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-09. 
  13. ^ "Graham's blog entry 31 August 2007". Graham Watson MEP website. 2007-08-31. Retrieved 2007-10-07. 
  14. ^ a b "Photo Gallery". Graham Watson MEP website. 2007-08-31. Retrieved 2007-10-07. 

External links


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