Wednesday 6 October 2021

A Note on Defecting MPs

The beginning of Conservative Party conference saw a flurry of excitement. According to the Mail on Sunday, three Labour MPs were in talks with the Tory whips' office about defecting. The word on the street was their discontent with Keir Starmer. His inability to cut through, take the fight to Boris Johnson and turn around the polls was making them nervous. So if you can't beat the Tories, why not join them? Hot on its heels was another unsubstantiated rumour, this time that four red wall Tories were considering jumping in the other direction. Interesting.

Nothing happened. The grotesque delusion of Tory conference went ahead without a hitch, and without the boost of newly minted MPs. Indeed, reading the MoS piece the complete absence of detail betrays its fictional roots. At least the Tory defection rumour to Labour pretends to be nothing more than a tweet. But do they both have some truthiness about them that speaks to a certain sensibility in both parties? Yes.

We've long noted here the self-interested character of the Labour right, and it's not too difficult to imagine any number of Labour MPs crossing the floor. We're not even talking relatively prominent people like Neil Coyle, Rosie Duffield, and Barry Sheerman. Anonymous no marks are legion in the parliamentary party, and their opportunities for earning an £81k salary outside of parliament are somewhere between zero and none. It must be tempting, especially if the Tories came a relatively close second in 2019 and one swallows the whole hype about working class voters going blue. They're certainly on surer ground than Chuka Umunna, Angela Smith, and friends who believed their careers were best served by founding a pro-EU Tory-lite outfit.

But, despite the many problems with Starmer's leadership, there are equally solid reasons for would-be Tory defectors. There is the livelihood issue to consider, particularly as the latest YouGov MRP has 32 seats looking like they'll fall back to Labour next time. But the other is the character of some of the new Tory MPs themselves. Not a few were paper candidates who never expected to win, and others were comparative naifs who entered politics out of some form of community mindedness. To see their government hammer workers and cut the incomes of the country's poorest is going to give at least some of them pause.

What would make this group of MPs tip their hand? The vibes from the doorstep, polling, and perception of how well the opposite party is doing. If a year from now Labour is still languishing and Keir Starmer hasn't been turfed out by those who flatter him now, then it what could be the last tranche of conferences before Johnson presses the early election button our defectors will make their move, assuming the Tory whip has promised them something nice on top. In the other direction, it's a matter of improved standing in the polls and the kind of opposition that plugs away at the issues concerning them. Therefore, it's troubling but entirely of a type that despite fighting the UC cut "tooth and nail", when asked Labour's leadership have refused to say whether the £20 uplift would be restored or not. What a shower.

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Shai Masot said...

I heard a rumour that Starmer was about to defect. Just crazy, in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

"I heard a rumour that Starmer was about to defect"

What's the point in a 'Fifth Column' if it walks out? That was the mistake made by Chuka Umunna and Mike 'Milk' Gapes.

Blissex said...

«"I heard a rumour that Starmer was about to defect"»

It could be just an exchange with Sunak: Boris gets rids of a competitor for the Conservative leadership, and New Labour gets a popular leader with a great thatcherite and minority fit. :-)

«What's the point in a 'Fifth Column' if it walks out?»

It all depends on whether one thinks that Corbyn has been a Labour Party fifth column inside the legitimate New Labour party since 1997, plotting to take it over with a small conspiracy of just a few hundred thousand other entrysts also from the Labour Party.

BCFG said...

But they were never the fifth column, this is the mistake made by Chuka Umunna et al.

I said on this site a couple of years ago that Corbyn was the worst person the left could ever have hoped for.

Corbyn was like the hacker who showed the bank its security flaws. He allowed the Blairites to learn the lessons that you never ever nominate a leftist labour leader ever again. The piss weak naive Corbyn represented the final nail in the coffin of real Labour, and did the right a huge favour. They will probably build a statue of him one day!

Why Chuka could not see this is anyone's guess.

At least he had principles. More than we can say for the so called leftists who have stayed in this corrupt party through thick and mass murder, and Thatcherism, and thin.

Anonymous said...

...and then there are some of those who have lost their seats and want no local talent to come through.

Shai Masot said...

"What's the point in a 'Fifth Column' if it walks out? That was the mistake made by Chuka Umunna and Mike 'Milk' Gapes."

Good point. But I the thinking is that Wes Streeting and Dan "compelling backstory" Jarvis (He's been in the Army!) are going to depose him. You've got to remember that the new nomination rules would allow the PLP to make the process a coronation if thay can all agree on which Blairite horror thay want to head up the party.

Far fetched if you ask me, but Streeting is omnipresent at the moment and Jarvis has recently given up his Sheffield perch.

Anyways, next election will be a straigh choice between Johnson or a Blairite. I'm not sure that's what the Labour members thought they were signing up to with Starmer. Not sure he did either.

Anonymous said...

Well of course ex MPs would not want any 'local talent to come through'. The point is are they supported by the party to make sure this is the case. If there are strong local candidates or strong other candidates they should not have their chance (in real terms) taken away. Equality of opportunity is that something the LP really stands for?

Anonymous said...

Most folks just want our elected representation to be somewhat representative - have had a few real jobs before politics for a start.

JN said...


TBH, I can't even be bothered being ironic about it: the Labour-right are arseholes who have fuck all link to what Labour (for all its shortcomings) was founded to be. They're not socialists, or trade unionists, or reformists, or whatever; they're just self-serving, essentially right-wing politicians who have latched onto the Labour Party in a completely parasitical way.