Second senior Greater Manchester Lib Dem defects to Labour

by Stephen Tall on July 15, 2009

It’s only a couple of weeks since Lib Dem Voice noted the defection of Denton and Reddish parliamentary candidate Paul Moss from the Lib Dems to Labour. Now comes news of a second defection, this time of Karen Wright, a former Lib Dem leader on Tameside council and a councillor for 12 years, until she stood down in 2008. The Manchester Evening News reports:

Explaining her decision to quit the Lib Dems, Ms Wright said: “The timing of my move was always going to be difficult but, the failure of the Lib Dems to put forward a candidate in the by-election in Denton North East was the final straw for me. While I’ve always believed in positive campaigning and have no interest in slating my old party, it’s become obvious to me that the Lib Dems in Tameside have become disorganised and are now showing little sign of understanding what local people need.”

A north west Liberal Democrat spokesman said it had supported Ms Wright through her relationship problems and thanked her for her service. He said: “We are disappointed that Karen has chosen to join the Denton and Reddish Labour Party at a time when the Liberal Democrats, who run Stockport council, have just received the strong backing of many local people with the Lib Dems topping the poll in the European Elections across Stockport.”

I know nothing of the local or personal circumstances – though I do know enough about defections to know there’s normally more than meets the eye or makes it into the press release – but it strikes me that your party not putting forward a candidate in a by-election must be one of the oddest reasons on record for deciding to defect to an opposing party.

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Blimey, the definition of “senior” has obviously changed since I was a lad.

by Costigan Quist on July 15, 2009 at 9:10 pm. Reply #

i agree. being in elected office at the very least. Tameside is a joke in terms of LibDem activity, but Karen Wright is culpable.
Paul Moss was a PPC who couldn’t win Council selections in the constituency he is selected as PPC. Nobody should be that bad.

by Paul Ankers on July 15, 2009 at 10:48 pm. Reply #

If you local party has collapsed to the point of not being able to field a by-election candidate, and you think one of the remaining parties is better at representing local people than the other, then yes, I can imagine there are party members who would leave.

More seriously, why did the LD statement mention Karen’s relationship problems? I have no idea what they are or were, but I think she deserves a bit of privacy here. That is negative campaigning at its worst on our part, and someone somewhere should be told that behaviour like that is unacceptable.

by tim leunig on July 15, 2009 at 11:46 pm. Reply #

There’s a lot of history and sorrow behind events in Tameside in recent years. Two people have defected giving their reasons the failure to put up a candidate in a by-election, and yet they are the very two people (the PPC and the ex-leader on the Council) who would have been expected to ensure that there was one! This leads me to suspect that this might have been planned for a while and the outcome of the selection for the other by-election would have made little long-term difference (and in fact might have led to that old trick, a mid-campaign defection of a by-election candidate).

Karen has been through a lot in recent years. When Peter was convicted of the serious domestic assualt which hospitalised her, she became the sole Lib Dem on Tameside (he automatically lost his seat) and I understand that on a personal level many of the local Labour Party were highly supportive to her personal situation whilst many neighouring Lib Dems (myself included) had difficulties even contacting her as she had to leave home with her children and her contact details concealed until after the trial for her personal safely.

However, behind this was an element of deception and covering up not only of the domestic situation which is understandable but still wrong, but also debts which is also wrong and can give us all a bad name. Deception in terms of identity is another and very serious matter and hardest of all to resolve in terms of who knew what and when. Liberal Democrats across the North West Region believed that the man now known to have been Peter MacIntyre (who had previously been imprisoned for war crimes in Angola) was in fact called Peter Wright, with no criminal record and was married to Karen Wright. None of it was true, however whilst Karen might have believed the name, might not have known about Angola, she knew that the last was never the case. Nothing wrong with not being married, but pretending to be married, to the electorate and the party isn’t honest either.

All parties are vulnerable to this sort of “identity fraud.”

by Jackie Pearcey on July 15, 2009 at 11:46 pm. Reply #

Um………..

Interesting story!

by Mark Wright on July 16, 2009 at 12:16 am. Reply #

tim leunig
“More seriously, why did the LD statement mention Karen’s relationship problems? I have no idea what they are or were, but I think she deserves a bit of privacy here. That is negative campaigning at its worst on our part, and someone somewhere should be told that behaviour like that is unacceptable.”

I think “Jackie Pearcey” has proved Shakespeare right yet again – “the worst is not / So long as we can say ‘This is the worst.'”

by Herbert Brown on July 16, 2009 at 12:59 am. Reply #

Jackie Pearcey


Two people have defected giving their reasons the failure to put up a candidate in a by-election, and yet they are the very two people (the PPC and the ex-leader on the Council) who would have been expected to ensure that there was one!

Actually, no. This illustrates a point I was making somewhere else recently – we often expect too much of our PPCs and this serves to put people off taking on the role. In particular, we seem to suppose PPCs should take on a big chunk of general local party organisation as well as being the national politics lead spokesperson, which is what the role ought to be about. If you are expecting a PPC to do behind-the-scenes tasks like identifying and pushing forward suitable local election candidates, you are asking for something which really isn’t part of the PPC role.

It isn’t uncommon for local associations to look for PPCs who they actually want to be general organisers as well. That’s their right if they want, but if it becomes part of party culture that every PPC should do the PPC job alongside being a general organiser, it will put off a lot of people who simply can’t commit that amount of time, particularly people who have a busy professional job outside politics.

Similarly, if we expect someone who has taken a leadership role in the council also to take on an extensive local party organisation role, we are asking too much.

Sure, some people are in the fortunate position to be able to take on several roles in the party simultaneously. Our party has prospered because if the huge amounts of unpaid voluntary work many have put into it. But if we make it an essential condition of holding one role that people should also take on others, we are erecting barriers to involvement, and we are also pushing people to burn out – a very common phenomenon amongst our party activists, we have lost too many good people through it.

by Matthew Huntbach on July 16, 2009 at 10:00 am. Reply #

Clearly there is a backstory in terms of the Peter Wright issue, coupled with the fact that Tameside LDs have struggled for a long time in terms of organisation. I gather the failure to field a bye election candidate was due to the RO refusing the LD nomination due to the fact that one of the nominators had also signed the BNPs form.

by Greg on July 16, 2009 at 10:10 am. Reply #

My parents have lived in Audenshaw for over 20 years, (having moved from Gorton in the late 1980s).

My father was in contact with Karen, Peter and Allison as his local councillors. They certainly approved of Alison as a person when she was their Lib Dem PC.

He wrote to the Labour Party to complain about their tactics in one of the local elections, using the Wrights’ break-up against someone who was neither Peter or Karen.

As I understand it Peter and Karen were the centre of the local party there.

by Simon Jerram on July 16, 2009 at 3:35 pm. Reply #

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