Open main menu

John Leech (politician)

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

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
Leader of the Opposition on Manchester City Council
Assumed office
3 May 2018
Preceded by Simon Ashley
Member of Manchester City Council for Didsbury West
Assumed office
5 May 2016
Preceded by Carl Ollerhead (Lab)
Majority 702 (16.09%)
Member of Manchester City Council for Chorlton Park
Barlow Moor (1998–2004)
In office
7 May 1998 – 8 May 2008
Preceded by Arthur Maloney (Lab)
Succeeded by Bernie Ryan (LD)
Majority 892 (30.8%)
Personal details
Born (1971-04-11) 11 April 1971 (age 47)
Wakefield, West Yorkshire, England
Nationality British
Political party Liberal Democrat
Alma mater Brunel University

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 with an increased majority in 2010. He has campaigned in particular on gay rights, affordable housing and refugees.

He was described as the 'architect' of Alan Turing's pardon in 2013[3] after running a high profile campaign and submitted several bills to parliament. He was instrumental in the campaign to introduce safe standing,[4] outlaw homophobic chanting at football matches[5] and put pressure on leaders in Greater Manchester to take on Syrian child refugees.[6]

He lost his Parliamentary seat at the 2015 General Election but was elected to Manchester City Council a year later as the sole opposition member. He is now Leader of the Opposition on the 96-member council.


Early lifeEdit

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 careerEdit

Leech was elected to Manchester City Council in 1998 winning the Barlow Moor ward from Labour with a 12% swing.[7] He was re-elected in 2002, increasing his majority.[8] 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.[9]

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.[10]

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.[11] He completed more than 111,000 pieces of casework during his ten years in parliament.[12]

Second term (2010–2015)Edit

Leech was re-elected in the 2010 general election, increasing his majority by three percentage points, defeating Lucy Powell.

During his second term, Leech rebelled against the party line on several occasions. He was one of only two MPs to vote against entering Coalition. He was one of 21 Liberal Democrat MPs who voted against the increased tuition fees bill.[13][14] Leech voted against the under-occupancy penalty (commonly called the bedroom tax)[15][16] He voted against a pay rise for MPs in 2013.[17] In early 2015, an article in the Manchester Evening News revealed that Leech was the second most rebellious MP in the North of England.[18]

In early 2015, he launched his re-election campaign, with the slogan 'Make it 15'.[19] Amid a UK-wide collapse in support for the Liberal Democrats, Leech lost his seat to Labour.[20]

After Parliament & re-election to council (2015–2018)Edit

After losing the seat, Leech said he would stand in the Manchester City Council elections in May 2016.[21]

Leech stood in Didsbury West and won the seat from Labour with a 16% swing, picking up 53% of the vote.[22] 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.[23] Lib Dem leader 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 was the only opposition member of the 2016–18 council, with Labour holding 95 of the 96 seats.

Leader of the Opposition on Manchester Council (2018–present)Edit

In 2018, Leech launched the Liberal Democrat 'Manchester Together' campaign and manifesto.[24]

During the election campaign, the Manchester Labour Party attacked John Leech for one of their campaign films which they claimed was “tasteless” and “immoral”.[25] The film showed young children watching TV and reacting to controversial news headlines, including the then-recent comments made by Withington councillor Chris Paul. Local and national media picked the video up with some claiming it was “something you’d expect to see in the 2020 Presidential campaigns in the US, not Manchester’s council election.”[26] A spokesperson for the Manchester Liberal Democrats defended the film, dismissing claims it was controversial and that it was instead, “an uncomfortable truth about Manchester Council.”[27]

Leech was re-elected to Manchester City Council in May 2018, topping the ballot and increasing his share of the vote to 55%.[28] Lib Dem leader Vince Cable personally commended Leech for a "fantastic campaign".[29] He was selected as Leader of the Opposition.

In 2018, Leech marked 20 years in elected public office. Lib Dem leader Vince Cable personally congratulated Leech on his "unparalleled 20 years in public service and extraordinary dedication to Manchester and its residents."[30]


In 2005 Leech campaigned for the Metrolink tram system to come through his constituency.[31] In 2012 it began running through south Manchester, terminating at East Didsbury.[32][33]

Leech campaigned to reduce the stake on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to £2.[34][35] The issue received cross-party support and was supported by campaign groups including Stop The FOBT's.[34] A bill he introduced to have the Statuary Instrument (SI) reduced to £50 FOBT threshold in February 2015 was defeated.[36]

For many years Leech campaigned against homophobia and for same-sex marriage. In 2013, he ran a campaign calling for homophobic chants at football matches to be outlawed.[37][38] Leech has been described as the architect of the campaign to pardon Alan Turing[3] who was convicted of homosexuality and later committed suicide.[39] 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 producers thanked him for bringing the topic to public attention and securing Turing's pardon.[40] His campaign then turned to acquiring pardons for the 75,000 other men convicted of the same crime.[41] 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.[42][43] Leech's campaign gained public support from popular physicists such as Stephen Hawking.[44]

Leech led a campaign for safe standing at football matches.[45] 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.[45][46][47][48]

Leech campaigned to remain during the 2016 EU referendum.[49] In a TV debate against Chris Green, Leech claimed he didn't want "any Brexit" and claimed the Government's deal had become a "shambles."[50]

On 5 October 2016, Leech 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"[51] 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.'[52]

Leech has criticised the city council's attitude towards homelessness.[53] 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.[54][55] 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[56] to which the council agreed.

In September 2017, Leech launched a Manchester-based campaign to tackle what he described as an "appalling" rise in homophobic and transphobic bullying in local schools.[57]

Personal LifeEdit

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.[58][dead link]

In November 2016 police investigated threats directed at Leech on Twitter. He continued to hold surgeries in his ward.[59]


  1. ^ [1][dead link]
  2. ^ "John Leech". BBC. Archived from the original on 2007-10-21. Retrieved 2007-10-02.
  3. ^ a b "Alan Turing's official homosexual court files go on display". Out News Global. 2016-09-24. Retrieved 2017-06-18.
  4. ^ "Safe standing just 'months away' as John Leech throws weight behind new campaign. - Manchester Gazette | Manchester's Newspaper". Manchester Gazette | Manchester's Newspaper. 2017-09-17. Retrieved 2018-06-24.
  5. ^ "Early day motion 1265 - HOMOPHOBIC CHANTING AT FOOTBALL GAMES". UK Parliament. Retrieved 2018-06-24.
  6. ^ "Manchester hangs head in shame on #WorldRefugeeDay says Manchester politician - Manchester Gazette | Manchester's Newspaper". Manchester Gazette | Manchester's Newspaper. 2018-06-20. Retrieved 2018-06-24.
  7. ^ "Manchester's Web Site – Local Elections '98". Archived from the original on 14 June 1998. Retrieved 18 June 2017.
  8. ^ "Manchester City Council, Elections, Chorlton Park Results 2004". Archived from the original on 18 June 2004. Retrieved 18 June 2017.
  9. ^ "Who's Who – John Leech MP". Liberal Democrats. Archived from the original on 17 September 2008. Retrieved 11 September 2008.
  10. ^ (29 November 2015). "Awards & Accolades". Liberal Democrats.
  11. ^ Limited, Mesmotronic. "Find out what your UK MP's been claiming for at".
  12. ^ "Half of Manchester residents ignored by their local MP". 7 November 2016.
  13. ^, Code Computerlove -. "Lib Dem MPs who kept the pledge against tuition fee increases".
  14. ^ "Lib Dem MP John Leech's speech opposing tuition fee plans". 9 December 2010 – via The Guardian.
  15. ^ "General Election 2015: Greater Manchester's key constituencies". BBC News.
  16. ^ (1 April 2015). "Did you vote in favour of the 'bedroom tax'?". Liberal Democrats.
  17. ^ "MPs' pay rise: what does your MP say?".
  18. ^ Fitzgerald, Todd (13 January 2015). "Revealed: Greater Manchester's most rebellious MPs".
  19. ^ "Manchester, Withington". UK Polling Report. Retrieved 2017-06-18.
  20. ^ Jennifer Williams (2015-05-08). "Election 2015: Did John Leech win Withington?". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 2017-06-18.
  21. ^ Fitzgerald, Todd (9 July 2015). "Ousted Withington MP John Leech plans return to council – and Parliament". Manchester Evening News. Trinity Mirror.
  22. ^ "Local Election – May 2016 Results". Manchester City Council.
  23. ^ Fitzgerald, Todd. "Manchester local election results 2016: John Leech ends Labour's total grip on the town hall". Manchester Evening News. Trinity Mirror. Archived from the original on 17 August 2016.
  24. ^ (2018-04-23). "Manchester Together: Our Plan". John Leech. Retrieved 2018-07-11.
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ "Opinion: Liberal Democrats' new Manchester campaign video takes it too far and makes them look desperate | Mancunian Matters". Retrieved 2018-07-11.
  28. ^
  29. ^ "John Leech re-elected in double win for Lib Dems - Manchester Gazette | Manchester's Newspaper". Manchester Gazette | Manchester's Newspaper. 2018-05-04. Retrieved 2018-07-11.
  30. ^ "John Leech re-elected in double win for Lib Dems - Manchester Gazette | Manchester's Newspaper". Manchester Gazette | Manchester's Newspaper. 2018-05-04. Retrieved 2018-07-11.
  31. ^ (29 June 2015). "Transport". Liberal Democrats.
  32. ^ "MP confident Metrolink expansion will go ahead". BBC News.
  33. ^ Kirby, Dean (15 May 2013). "Didsbury village traders' delight at early opening of Metrolink tram line".
  34. ^ a b "Lib Dem call to cut the stake on FOBTs to £2 a spin". Stop the FOBTs. Retrieved 2017-06-18.
  35. ^ "Subscribe to read". Financial Times.
  36. ^ "The FOBT debate – it reduces to this!". Retrieved 2017-06-18.
  37. ^ "Lib Dem MP highly commended for campaign to stop homophobic chants at football matches".
  38. ^ "John Leech tables parliamentary motion about homophobic chants at football matches".
  39. ^ Stevenson, Alex. "Better late than never, Alan Turing is finally pardoned".
  40. ^ "My proudest day as a Liberal Democrat".
  41. ^ (27 June 2015). "Justice with Turing". Liberal Democrats.
  42. ^ "MP calls for pardon for computer pioneer Alan Turing". BBC News.
  43. ^ "Lib Dem MP John Leech: 'Alan Turing's contribution to Manchester was enormous'".
  44. ^ "Alan Turing".
  45. ^ a b Keegan, Mike (16 December 2013). "South Manchester MP leads football safe standing calls".
  46. ^ staff, Guardian (22 August 2014). "Lib Dems propose plans for safe standing at Premier League grounds" – via The Guardian.
  47. ^ (15 October 2014). "Safe standing would cut the cost of football – John Leech MP". Liberal Democrats.
  48. ^ correspondent, Richard Conway BBC Radio 5 live sports news. "Safe standing: Lib Dems make 2015 General Election pledge".
  49. ^ Todd Fitzgerald (2016-06-11). "Lib Dem leader urges Mancunians to vote to stay in the European Union". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 2017-06-18.
  50. ^ "John Leech and Chris Green clash over Brexit - Manchester Gazette | Manchester's Newspaper". Manchester Gazette | Manchester's Newspaper. 2018-07-16. Retrieved 2018-07-16.
  51. ^ Todd Fitzgerald (2016-10-05). "Calls for Manchester to take on 50 Syrian refugee families while leaders fight for fair deal". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 2017-06-18.
  52. ^ "Manchester yet to accept a single Syrian refugee". 7 November 2016.
  53. ^ Pete Bainbridge (2016-12-11). "Manchester council branded 'shameless' after spending thousands on designer chairs for library". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 2017-06-18.
  54. ^ Office, Press (2017-01-17). "Former Manchester MP declares war on dating apps after uncovering 'distressing' rise in related sexual assaults". Retrieved 2017-06-18.
  55. ^ Woodley, Emma (2017-01-18). "Former Manchester MP 'Declares War' On Tinder & Grindr Over Safety Concerns". Global Dating Insights. Retrieved 2017-06-18.
  56. ^ Beth Abbit (2017-03-22). "The code-word that could help if you are feeling threatened during a date". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 2017-06-18.
  57. ^
  58. ^ Leech, John. "Frequently Asked Questions". Official website. Archived from the original on 7 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-25.
  59. ^ Todd Fitzgerald. "Police investigate after Lib Dem councillor John Leech threatened with violence on Twitter". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 2017-06-18.

External linksEdit

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Keith Bradley
Member of Parliament for Manchester, Withington
Succeeded by
Jeff Smith