The Mr and Mrs team step down in Yorkshire MEP row

Rebecca Taylor Image copyright (C) British Broadcasting Corporation
Image caption Rebecca Taylor could now be offered the empty LibDem MEP seat

I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when the telephone rang in Rebecca Taylor's home last night.

At just 36, Rebecca is a veteran Liberal Democrat politician who has been learning her trade by standing in elections where her chances of winning have been limited.

She came a distant third in the general election in the Labour heartland of Rotherham in 2010.

At the Euro elections in 2009, she was selected to be third on the Liberal Democrat regional list in Yorkshire and the Humber.

But under the proportional representation system used to elect MEPs, the LibDems barely raised enough support to get their first-choice candidate a seat in the region so she was just making up the numbers.

Well, that telephone call changed all that.

Ongoing saga

Rebecca was asked whether she wanted to take over the Liberal Democrats' seat in the European Parliament.

She does not have to stand in a by-election.

All she has to do is say "yes".

Image copyright (C) British Broadcasting Corporation
Image caption The Mr and Mrs team step down in the Yorkshire MEP row

It marks the latest twist in the huge row following the announcement of sitting Liberal Democrat MEP Diana Wallis that she wants to resign.

Under the form of proportional representation used to elect MEPs, when one steps down or retires early, the seat is retained by their party and passed on to the candidate who was second on its regional list at the election.

At the 2009 Euro elections, the second-ranked LibDem candidate in the Yorkshire and the Humber region was Stewart Arnold. He is also Diana Wallis' husband.

The idea that she was stepping down in the full knowledge that her other half would automatically take over without troubling the electorate with a by-election did not go down too well.

Blooming mad

The UKIP MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber Godfrey Bloom put it in his usual blunt fashion.

"It stinks," he said.

Image copyright (C) British Broadcasting Corporation
Image caption UKIP's Godfrey Bloom MEP says that the situation "stinks"

Even the LibDem whip in the European Parliament could not stomach the idea.

He dubbed it as "nepotism" and promptly stepped down from his party post in protest.

Clearly rattled, the group of UK LibDem MEPs arranged to hold their own "scrutiny meeting" a couple of days before Diana Wallis' intended resignation date of 31 January.

Stewart Arnold stepped aside before they could meet.

In a notice posted on the official Diana Wallis website he never mentions the row.

He says that his decision is because Diana suffers from a long-term chronic medical condition.

"I decided in the short term to give her the support she needs and not to take up the seat which would inevitably involve long periods away from home," he wrote.


In her original resignation letter to supporters, Diana Wallis said a "contributory factor" for her decision was because of the effects of endometriosis.

She is a prominent supporter of women who have the condition, through the Endometriosis Awareness campaign.

Image copyright bbc
Image caption The spotlight now moves from Diana Wallis pictured above to Rebecca Taylor

Now the spotlight moves on to Rebecca Taylor.

She certainly has the Liberal Democrat credentials.

Her dad, Michael, was leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Calderdale Council in West Yorkshire.

And her mother, Elizabeth Wilson, stood as the party's candidate in Halifax at the general election.

Rebecca told me she is "thrilled and honoured" to be asked.

She is expected to give her decision in the next couple of days.