He initially stood in the 1984 European Parliament election, finishing third with 22.5% of the vote. In the 1989 election he polled 8% of the vote, coming fourth, then in the 1994 election he came third with 20%. The constituencies were largely representing Cambridgeshire and at times parts of Bedfordshire. With the electoral change to regional party-list proportional representation, he was first elected in the 1999 European Parliament election when the Liberal Democrats won 11.95% of the regional vote, and retained his seat in the 2004 elections when they won 14% of the regional vote.
He was a City Councillor in Cambridge from 1982 to 1990 and was Vice-President of the Liberal Democrats from 1994 to 1997. He was awarded an OBE for services to politics in 1997. In October 2007 he joined the European Council on Foreign Relations.
He has a well-known stammer in his voice.