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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 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 byKeith Bradley
Succeeded byJeff Smith
Leader of the Opposition on Manchester City Council
Assumed office
3 May 2018
Preceded bySimon Wheale (2014)
Member of Manchester City Council for Didsbury West
Assumed office
5 May 2016
Preceded byCarl Ollerhead (Lab)
Majority702 (16.09%)
Member of Manchester City Council for Chorlton Park
Barlow Moor (1998–2004)
In office
7 May 1998 – 8 May 2008
Preceded byArthur Maloney (Lab)
Succeeded byBernie Ryan (LD)
Majority892 (30.8%)
Personal details
Born (1971-04-11) 11 April 1971 (age 47)
Wakefield, West Yorkshire, England
Political partyLiberal Democrat
Alma materBrunel University

Leech served on the city council from 1998 and 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, and defeating future Labour MP Lucy Powell.

During his second term, Leech rebelled against the party line on several occasions. He was one of only two Liberal Democrat MPs to vote against entering the Coalition, and was one of 21 MPs to vote against the increased tuition fees bill.[13][14] Leech also voted against the under-occupancy penalty (commonly called the 'bedroom tax'),[15][16] and 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 and 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 an unusually 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 providing the city with its first opposition for two years.[23] The leader of the Liberal Decmorats, 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 the Lib Dems 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 about women 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. [30]

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."[29]


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] In November 2018 after The Bank of England invited members of the public to vote on which figure should appear on the new £50 note, Leech said it should be Alan Turing so as to "serve as a stark and frankly painful reminder of what we lost in Turing" [45]

Leech led a campaign for safe standing at football matches.[46] 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.[46][47][48][49]

Leech campaigned to remain during the 2016 EU referendum.[50] 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."[51]

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"[52] 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.'[53]

Leech has criticised the city council's attitude towards homelessness.[54] 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.[55][56] 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[57] 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.[58]

In September 2017, Leech released a report on homophobic and transphobic bullying in Manchester's schools. It revealed that incidents had doubled in the last two years. [59] Speaking at the Liberal Democrats conference, he said ‘We have absolutely no right to claim we live in a decent society when this kind of behaviour is still rife in our schools.’ [60] 17 schools refused to take part in his report which he criticised as a 'worrying lack of transparency'. Leech pledged to work with schools, LGBT+ groups and called on both Manchester Council and the UK Government to work harder to 'stamp out the deplorable behaviour'. [61]

Also in September 2017, Leech delivered a speech at the Liberal Democrats Conference in which he called on the Government to take a more proactive role in youth crime. [62] He criticised Government cuts [63] but also spoke of the need for police to become role models in their communities and "completely immerse themselves in their communities to really get to know local people and earn their trust." [64] Leech worked with youth charity Kids Count to work to a solution. [65]

In October 2018, Leech uncovered a history of legal, ethical and worker safety controversy surrounding the two companies shortlisted for a £330m contract to renovate Manchester's Town Hall. [66] [67] He said that "Under absolutely no circumstances" should Lendlease ever be considered for a council contract again until they paid a £3m Grenfell-style cladding bill in the Green Quarter of Manchester. [68] In January 2019, Lendlease was announced as the winner of the contract. [69] Leech criticised the decision and said it showed a lack of concern for local people. [70]

Personal lifeEdit

Leech is an amateur dramatics enthusiast with Manchester Road Players. He is a football supporter and season-ticket holder at Manchester City F.C. and was a member of the Parliamentary Football team.[71][dead link] He is often described as "one of the most sassy" politicans and was voted Lib Dem Sassiest MP in an online poll. [72]


In November 2016 police investigated a number of "very serious" threats directed at Leech on Twitter. He was advised not to post his schedule publicly and to temporarily pause his advice surgeries. [73]

During the 2017 General Election police investigated a number of theft and intimidation reports. [74] Incidents included people who had been driving around the Manchester Withington constituency, in which Leech was standing, in balaclavas breaking onto the property of Lib Dem supporters. [75] The activists boasted about stealing garden posters on Twitter, publicly planned where to target next and posed in pictures with the posters in balaclavas. [76] The events happened just days after a terrorist targeted the Manchester Arena. [77]


  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.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  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. ^ "WATCH: Have the Lib Dems taken it too far with their latest campaign film?". 30 April 2018.
  26. ^ "Opinion: Liberal Democrats' new Manchester campaign video takes it too far and makes them look desperate - Mancunian Matters".
  27. ^ "Opinion: Liberal Democrats' new Manchester campaign video takes it too far and makes them look desperate | Mancunian Matters". Retrieved 2018-07-11.
  28. ^ "John Leech re-elected in double win for Lib Dems". 4 May 2018.
  29. ^ a b "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. ^ (2018-08-07). "About". John Leech's Manchester Liberal Democrats. Retrieved 2018-10-24.
  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.
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  43. ^ "Lib Dem MP John Leech: 'Alan Turing's contribution to Manchester was enormous'".
  44. ^ "Alan Turing".
  45. ^ "Turing on £50 note will be painful reminder of what we lost" - About Manchester". About Manchester. 2018-11-02. Retrieved 2018-11-02.
  46. ^ a b Keegan, Mike (16 December 2013). "South Manchester MP leads football safe standing calls".
  47. ^ staff, Guardian (22 August 2014). "Lib Dems propose plans for safe standing at Premier League grounds" – via The Guardian.
  48. ^ (15 October 2014). "Safe standing would cut the cost of football – John Leech MP". Liberal Democrats.
  49. ^ correspondent, Richard Conway BBC Radio 5 live sports news. "Safe standing: Lib Dems make 2015 General Election pledge".
  50. ^ 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.
  51. ^ "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.
  52. ^ 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.
  53. ^ "Manchester yet to accept a single Syrian refugee". 7 November 2016.
  54. ^ Pete Bainbridge (2016-12-11). "Manchester council branded 'shameless' after spending thousands on designer chairs for library". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 2017-06-18.
  55. ^ 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.
  56. ^ Woodley, Emma (2017-01-18). "Former Manchester MP 'Declares War' On Tinder & Grindr Over Safety Concerns". Global Dating Insights. Retrieved 2017-06-18.
  57. ^ 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.
  58. ^ "Homophobic bullying on the rise in Manchester schools". ITV News.
  59. ^
  60. ^ "Homophobic and transphobic bullying on the rise in Manchester's high schools". ITV News.
  61. ^ "Homophobic bullying in Manchester schools doubles in just two years". 19 September 2017.
  62. ^ "John Leech calls for crackdown on Youth Crime". 19 September 2017.
  63. ^ "Yellow News Media Monitoring Suite - [Transcript]".
  64. ^ "Yellow News Media Monitoring Suite - [Transcript]".
  65. ^
  66. ^ Office, Press. "UNCOVERED: Manchester Town Hall's £330m shortlisted contractors DROWNING in legal, ethical and worker safety controversy". John Leech's Manchester Liberal Democrats.
  67. ^ "Calls for Lendlease to be suspended from lucrative Council contracts after Cladding debacle". 3 October 2018.
  68. ^ "Local politician rails against council's contractors".
  69. ^ January, 8; Price, 2019By David. "Lendlease lands £330m Manchester Town Hall deal". Construction News.
  70. ^ "Place North West - Lendlease beats Laing O'Rourke to Manchester Town Hall contract". 7 January 2019.
  71. ^ Leech, John. "Frequently Asked Questions". Official website. Archived from the original on 7 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-25.
  72. ^
  73. ^ Fitzgerald, Todd (7 November 2016). "Police investigate after councillor threatened with violence on Twitter". men.
  74. ^ "Labour-supporting 'thugs' accused of stealing Lib Dems signs in Manchester dressed in balaclavas". The Sun. 1 June 2017.
  75. ^ "guido fawkes balaclava - Google Search".
  76. ^ " - Connecting People Through News".
  77. ^ "Fire chief blames police over bomb delay". 20 August 2018 – via

External linksEdit

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