By Martin Banks - 19th January 2012
There will be some people who will regard this as quite unprincipled
Veteran British MEP Diana Wallis has been criticised over her decision to resign as an MEP following her failed bid for the parliament presidency.
Wallis will formally announce her decision on Friday but the news about her resignation was given to parliament's new president Martin Schulz at a meeting of the assembly's bureau on Wednesday.
Her decision has triggered shock among other MEPs, coming in the week she finished bottom out of three candidates for the presidency.
Some of the criticism focused on the likelihood that she would be replaced as an MEP by her husband Stewart Arnold, who was number two on the Liberal Democrat list in Wallis' Yorkshire constituency.
Under current rules, he is now almost certain to take her seat in parliament.
Leading the criticism of Wallis was her party colleague Chris Davies, who was among those who nominated her for the presidency.
He told this website, "I am appalled and feel betrayed by her decision. To stand for election for the presidency one day and then resign the following day is quite unbelievable.
"It is an insult to her constituents and a slap in the face for the constituents who supported her in the last European elections.
"There will be some people who will regard this as quite unprincipled."
"I have known her for 13 years but I now think my assessment of her character was wrong."
Wallis employed her husband as her chief assistant and he is expected to take her place for the next two and a half years before the next European elections in 2014.
Davies said, "He is not guaranteed to succeed her but it is likely to do so. The problem is that this will leave a very bad taste in the mouths of a lot of people.
"It will serve to reinforce the 'gravy train' or 'jobs for the boys' image many people have of MEPs."
He added, "Under current party rules, there is not much we can do about this but I think the party hierarchy should seriously now consider looking into possible ways of choosing a candidate other than the husband of Diana Wallis."
Davies said, "One door shuts on her career in Brussels and another one opens for her husband. I really cannot imagine her constituents will be impressed by any of this. People will feel uncomfortable with this. It looks wrong and I share their assessment."
Speculating on her reason for quitting, Davies said it may have been influenced by the fact that the Lib Dems supported McMillan-Scott for ALDE's one vice-presidency post ahead of Wallis.
He said, "Her own colleagues picked Edward over her and it makes me wonder if she had been plotting this all along."
Wallis' decision came amid speculation that she may be in line for a peerage while other parliamentary insiders said she was unhappy about having to give up the "large office" she had enjoyed since taking over the chair of the Iceland delegation in 2004.
Support for Wallis came from Sarah Ludford, another UK Liberal MEP, who said, "She will be a loss to parliament because she did a lot of good work on transparency and the statute.
"I did not expect her to do any better in the presidency election and I think her vote was respectable, especially as she was not the official ALDE candidate."
Wallis is thought to have incurred the wrath of ALDE leader Guy Verhofstadt in standing for the presidency as an independent. She had been a parliament vice-president for transparency, but lost the portfolio this week.
Wallis was travelling back from Strasbourg on Thursday and unavailable for comment. Calls to her husband went unanswered.
Her decision to step down was confirmed by fellow ALDE member Edward McMillan-Scott, also a Yorkshire MEP and vice-president of parliament who broke the news to the bureau on Wednesday night in Strasbourg.