Graham Watson MEP
Liberal Democrat Member of the European Parliament for South West England and Gibraltar
A local champion with an international reputation
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Published on Wednesday 30th November 2011
Biography: Sir Graham Watson MEP
Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for South West England and Gibraltar
President of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party
Graham Watson was born in Rothesay, Scotland, in March 1956, the son of a Royal Naval Officer and a teacher. He was educated at The City of Bath Boys' School and at Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh, where he gained an honours degree in Modern Languages. He is a qualified interpreter who speaks four European languages.
From 1983 to 1987 he served as Head of the Private Office of the Rt.Hon. Sir David Steel MP, then Leader of the Liberal Party. He had previously been active as General Secretary of the Liberal International's youth movement, and was a founder of the European Communities' Youth Forum.
Immediately before entering parliament Graham Watson worked for the Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation in their London and Hong Kong offices. His six years with HSBC encompassed a three-month stint with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. He maintains an active interest in the Far East and is currently learning Mandarin Chinese.
Graham Watson was the first British Liberal Democrat ever to be declared elected to the European Parliament, winning the Somerset & North Devon constituency with a majority of over 22,500. In June 1999 Graham was elected to represent the new enlarged South West of England constituency, which covers Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire, Devon and Cornwall and which he has held since then.
From 1994 to 1999, Graham was a member of the Committee for Economic & Monetary Affairs and Industrial Policy and the Budgets Committee. From July 1999 to 2002 he served as Chairman of the Committee on Citizens' Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs. In January 2002 Graham Watson was elected as Leader of the European Parliament's Liberal Democrat group, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. During his tenure, the Liberal group grew to become the largest ever 3rd force in the European Parliament. Graham stood down from this role after the European Election in June 2009 to return to the back benches. He sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee. He is a member of the European Parliament's delegations to China and India, the latter of which he chairs. Beyond Parliament, Graham is chairman of the global e-Parliament.
Graham's publications include 'The Liberals in the North-South Dialogue' (1980), 'To the Power of Ten: UK Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament' (2000), '2020 Vision: Liberalisation and Globalisation' (2001), 'Liberal Language' (2003), 'EU've got mail!' (2004), 'Liberal Democracy & Globalisation' (2006), 'Liberalism - something to shout about' (2006) and 'The Power of Speech' (2006). Graham has also edited and published 4 cross-party pamphlets; 'The Case for Global Democracy' (2007), 'Making Migration Work for Europe' (April 2008), 'The Lisbon Strategy: Mode d'Emploi' (July 2008) and 'Making the Green Energy Switch at a Time of Crisis' (2009). His latest book, 'Building a Liberal Europe: The ALDE Project', was published by John Harper Publishing in October 2010. See below for more details.
Graham was knighted in the Queen's birthday honours in October 2011 and was elected President of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party (ELDR), comprising 55 liberal parties from across Europe.
Graham Watson lives in the small market town of Langport, Somerset. He is married to Dr Rita Giannini, by whom he has two children, a daughter born in 1992 and a son born in 1995. Graham's leisure interests include sailing, walking and listening to jazz music.
Building a Liberal Europe: The ALDE Project
Published October 2010, Graham's book "Building a Liberal Europe: The ALDE Project" charts the development of Liberal Democrat influence in Europe from his unique perspective as leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe 2002-2009. Part political study, part memoir, it provides a fascinating and lively insight into Europe's growing Liberal family.