Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Am I the only one bored by political defections?

A Conservative councillor in Cornwall has defected to the Lib Dems (reported here on Lib Dem Voice).

Every week or two there will be some political defection reported somewhere at some level. Often council, sometimes MEP, occasionally MP (although we haven't had one of them for a while - I think Quentin Davies was the last one) or MSP, MA etc.

Is it just me or is this sort of thing, you know, well, boring? I know the dynamics that have been behind some defections in the last few years and there are often local factors at play and of course personal ambitions and all sorts of things that would never be admitted to in whatever official statement is released. In other words it is going to be pretty much impossible for an external observer to get the real reasons behind the defection.

Often as well I find that the party receiving the new convert goes well over the top in highlighting the significance and we sometimes get the counter-spin operation from the jilted party. Yawn, yawn, yawn.

People change their mind about stuff all the time in real life and change jobs to work for competitor organisations too. Why, when it happens in politics do people think it means anything significant?

It almost never does, whatever party is being jumped from and to.


Richard Gadsden said...

The times when defections are interesting are:

1. When they are a clear sign of a political change of direction - if we see a lot of Conservative defections to UKIP and few in the other direction, then it's a clear sign that the Tories are moving to the left.

2. When they are a case of rats jumping from the sinking ship, in which case they are useful evidence that the ship is sinking.

The clearest historical example of 1 above is, of course, the SDP.

The best example of 2 is the string of defections away from the Tories in the run up to the 1997 General Election - Alan Howarth to Labour and Emma Nicholson and Peter Thurnham to the Lib Dems, plus George Gardiner to the Referendum Party.

Matthew said...

Surely there is a major difference between jumping ship between parties and between (say) law firms, in that politicians have votes. So with small majorities defections can change the parliamentary arithmetic. This happened in the 1970s, possibly under Major, but it happens a lot with councils.

Matthew Harris said...

There was one Lib Dem PPC who'd been massacred at the previous General Election, who then joined the Tories - this is a few years ago now. Of course, the Tories puffed him up to make him seem important as a defector. The Independent ran a story about this, including a photo of this guy with the Leader of the Conservative Party. My mate Wayne, also a Lib Dem PPC, got a letter in the next day's paper saying: "If I join the Tories too, will you run my photo as well, because my Mum would love to see my picture in The Independent?".