Another Lib Dem councillor defects in Oxford

by Stephen Tall on July 25, 2007

A Lib Dem councillor has defected to Labour in Oxford, the fourth defection from the group in 15 months – two to Labour, two to the Independents (who later became Tories). Oxford city council is currently run as a Lib Dem minority administration.

Declaration of interest: I’m a member of the Lib Dem group in Oxford (with no intention of defecting, I hasten to add). One thing unites all four defections – they were without warning, and had nothing to do with policy disagreements raised within the group. Defections are motivated by many things; sadly, it seems rarely to be much to do with politics, nor the wishes of the voters.

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Another one?!

This would seem to raise some awkward questions about our candidate approval process in Oxford…

by Joe Taylor on July 25, 2007 at 1:56 pm. Reply #

I agree with Joe. Where do you get your candidates from ? Surely you select people with a long term or obvious leaning tot he Lib Dems or do you go for the political opportunists too much ?

by Norfolk Blogger on July 25, 2007 at 2:06 pm. Reply #

I suspect answers to these questions (and any others there may be) are best answered on the Members-only Forum…

Thread started.

by Stephen Tall on July 25, 2007 at 2:08 pm. Reply #

Strrange, given that the Lib Dems claim to support openess…

Whay do you have to hide?

by Justin Hinchcliffe on July 25, 2007 at 2:53 pm. Reply #


I’m as intrigued by the answers as anyone else. This is all getting a little silly….


by Matt S on July 25, 2007 at 3:00 pm. Reply #

Did they defect, or were they washed away by flood waters? 🙂

by Rob Fenwick on July 25, 2007 at 4:03 pm. Reply #

I have never defected from any political party and have no intention of defecting to any political party.
But I do believe that defections are a fact of life and we should not begrudge anyone who does so, unless they deliberately decide to burn their bridges in doing so.
Instead of bearing grudges, we should be looking at the overall national trends and asking ourselves what the party stands for and how we make it a compelling party for people to want to join it and be active.
I admit that I am on the left of the party and I do find myself asking what I am doing here, particularly when I read the blogs of the now fashionable sub-Thatcherite (to quote Roy Jenkins) types who seem to be ever more numerous in the party. However there is certainly no alternative Liberal party worth joining, or even an alternative left party, and the Green Tax Switch policy is radical enough to be worth getting out of bed for.
We ought to learn from the SNP, they seem to know how to operate as an opposition party (and we all agree that – apparently – the Scots do not want independence), namely to be anti-establishment and (amongst many other things) unambiguously oppose replacing Trident.

by Geoffrey Payne on July 25, 2007 at 7:51 pm. Reply #

Geoff, you know as well as I do that we “lefties” to use the old-fashioned term vastly outnumber the freemarketeers in the party… conference has consistently made the right choices on pretty much everything but Trident in recent years.

So no defecting, okay?

by Eastender on July 25, 2007 at 7:54 pm. Reply #

There is nothing new about “sub-Thatcherism”.

Paddy Ashdown tried it, and was defeated by Conference (if my memory serves me right).

Then there is the case of one Dr David Owen who, round about 1986 suddenly started praising Mrs Thatcher and spoke as if the lady had been right all along. (Recall that when Owen challenged Roy Jenkins in 1982 he marketed himself as the “left” candidate with the “radical cutting edge”. He wasn’t known as “Dr Death” for nothing.)

There have always been right-wing Liberals, generally these days in the upper age bracket. Some people are Liberals out of family tradition, even if they hold right-wing views on most issues. The polite term for them is “Gladstonian”, I think.

by Angus Huck on July 25, 2007 at 9:05 pm. Reply #

Occasionally people defect because they have genuinely rethought their political views in the light of their experience of life: if John Bercow leaves the Conservative Party then he will be an example of this, and should be respected for his honesty and personal integrity, because it is never easy to turn your back on people who have worked selflessly for you and whose trust you are betraying. Far more often, though, people change parties because they feel their talents are unappreciated by their colleagues for some reason: they haven’t got the Cabinet post to which they think they are entitled; their ‘pet’ scheme hasn’t been adopted by the group; they don’t believe that collective responsibility applies to them; they don’t like one or more of their colleagues. But liberalism, as embodied by the Liberal Democrat Party, is bigger than individual egos, and although defections may cause short term, or even long term damage (look at Adur), it is the philosophy that matters, not the individual.

by tony hill on July 25, 2007 at 9:19 pm. Reply #

I don’t like fixing definitions on philosophic constructs as there are always additional factors which you may not yet have taken into account.

But I’ll do so this time only.

Where conservatism is nostalgic for when the past was better, liberalism is optimistic about making the future better.


Within the reality of that basic position all sorts of relative variety exists – for example the LD position opposing the overthrow of Saddam (for specific political reasons) and the ongoing mission in Iraq (for general political reasons) is entirely principled and reflects a responsible adult attitude to the reality of the situation at hand.

The economic argument between free-marketeers and fair-traders is another false division, where the debate has been polarised into diametric opposition for political ends. I would argue that some thatcherite reforms were liberal, beneficial and good, although clearly she got carried away by the momentum of the thinking. Again, some blairite/brownite reforms were liberal, beneficial and good, but most were too cautious and limited. There is no contradiction to say that as we liberals believe the economy needs open markets where trade is profitable for all involved.

Social policy is a different matter, but again, being responsible means taking responsibility for your own behaviour and actively fulfilling the role you assume.

The common factor can be summed up as participation.

It’s easy to forget that when you were told that “the taking part is more important that the winning” you could have been stuck at home bored and dreaming instead.

by Jack D on July 26, 2007 at 1:24 am. Reply #

For me the most compelling argument in favour of the Liberal Democrats today is the need for the UK to have a foreign policy independent of the USA, and of course based on Liberal principles. No other serious party offers that and I think there are a lot of people who would agree with us if we could be bolder in making our case.
US foreign policy in the past few years has been disasterous, and France and Germany should be supported for bravely standing up to them during the war in Iraq. A Lib Dem government at the time would have done the same.
So to Eastender in particular, I may not be totally enthusiastic about the party at the moment, but there is no question about me defecting to anyone else.
None at all.

by Geoffrey Payne on July 26, 2007 at 7:53 am. Reply #

Oh here we go – my message was deleted! What a surprise!

I’ll say it again – double standards from the LibDems. Never short of making a meal when someone defects to you, it’s all Members Forums and secrets when it is the other way round.

Either come clean or accept your own medicine.

by winning here on July 26, 2007 at 11:12 am. Reply #

Not fair. The defection was posted here and there has been a pretty open & spin-free discussion of it and the implications. Public discussion of best practice in candidate selection is fine. Eg not selecting somebody whose most recent political activity is donating money to a rival party…
However, the details of individual candidate appraisal and approval processes are rightly confidential in any organisation – and I would think less of my or any party if they bandied that kind of personal info about.

by Bridget Fox on July 26, 2007 at 11:43 am. Reply #

Just a quick reminder about the comments policy on this site: disagrements, including comments from members of other parties, are welcome. Passing yourself off as a party member when you’re not isn’t, nor is (as is relevant to some comments posted here) simple strings of abuse. If you think Lib Dems are awful, go on apply your brain a bit and put together a coherent argument rather than just string together a row of insults 🙂

by Mark Pack on July 26, 2007 at 3:10 pm. Reply #

I can’t comment on the candidate approval process in Oxford, but on this of my involvement in the process elsewhere I doubt there’s very much about it which would come as too much of a surprise to members of other parties.

The fact is that all parties have a significant proportion of councillors whose main interest is dealing with ward issues and casework, and have only a fairly limited interest in party politics. This isn’t usually a problem, as they are likely to be good (and popular) local councillors, and will generally go along with the more “political” members of the group on policy issues. It does mean, however, that they are likely to have no great philosophical objection to joining the centrist / moderate wing of the Labour or Tory group. A few councillors may change parties for genuine political reasons, but my impression is that most defections (both to and from us) tend to be a result of councillors of this type falling out with their previous party, either for personal reasons or over a very specific local issue.

Candidate approval can weed out those who hold positively illiberal views, but it’s very difficult to reject people for “not being Liberal enough”, particularly if they are long standing party members or supporters.

by Jeremy Sanders on July 26, 2007 at 3:14 pm. Reply #

All well and good, but what’s the particular problem with the Oxford group?

Four members in one year is pretty poor going, albeit to different parties.

Is a change of leader likely?

by liblablog on July 27, 2007 at 12:26 am. Reply #

If Civic loyalty is placed above party loyalty, then I think that it is probably a good thing for Local Government.

by Matt Wardman on July 31, 2007 at 2:30 am. Reply #

I used to be an active member of the Party for nearly 20 years. I used to have blind faith in the justice and fairness and ideals of the party.

Nearly 3 years later, I am still in shock from discovering that the party is run by a white majority which manipulates the system for its own good.

Just for the record, the Party i.e cancelled my membership because I complained of racism and favoritism for white people. These turned out to be justified according to lawyers who looked at my papers.

I am in the process of bringing the case to the courts. However the Legal Services Commission is taking its time and making a record number of mistakes that makes the child support agency look competent.

by Yasmin Zalzala on August 7, 2007 at 8:48 am. Reply #

Ms Zalzala:- I do not know much about your case (anything really) so I looked up some of the press reports online.

For several years there are reports of you saying you are lodging a complaint with a wide-range of bodies.

There are no reports I can find of any of your complaints being upheld, either by a party body or an external body.

That seems very significant.

by Lib Dem member on August 7, 2007 at 9:37 am. Reply #

Oh but there is however the party investigations were covered up to protect councilors and long standing members. It is a bit like the police claiming that there is no recism because it is a sackable offence yet we all know of racist police officers and no one has been sacked.

My allegations were evaluated by a team of barristers independently at a famous school of law and they advised that I have a reasonable claim to proceed with a claim for direct discrimination on the ground of race against the party.

However I do not have the funds to support such a claim and am waiting on the Legal Services Commission.

As for party investigations, one report was ‘changed’ by the executive (the chair of the committee told me afterwards) and another committee claimed they have no power to make any alterations to a regional body’s decision and at another enquiry, one the members was fast asleep next to the chairman.

I hope this answers you questions and I hope someday soon to bring my claim to a courtroom.

by Yasmin Zalzala on August 7, 2007 at 11:30 am. Reply #

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