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It's an interesting fact that, until recently, position seekers on both the left and right of the Tory Party found it opportune to defect. Roger Knapman was an utterly undistinguished backbencher whose political career appeared to be at an end until he defected to UKIP - and became its leader and a (very well paid) MEP to boot. Cyril Townsend was effectively deselected and last year found a new lease of life in the Lib Dems - possibly the last of the defectors.

As the Conservative Party revives no doubt the traffic will start to flow the other way. We should always ask about the motives of those who abandon previous loyalties. For example, I was unimpressed by Harold Elletson's rediscovered enthusiasm for the Tories. He lost his seat, wasn't given a safe seat and so ran off to the Lib Dems ranting about 'extremism'. Now the Liberals are going down in the polls and the Tories are going up - suddenly he's "very impressed" with David Cameron. Draw your own conclusions. The behaviour of rats who jump off the ship when it's sinking and then jump back on when it restabilises may be an encouraging indicator of the state of play - but they're still rats.

It’s not that much of a secret; Sir Cyril seconded a Lib Dem candidate's nomination papers in the general election:

http://www.torridge.gov.uk/media/adobe/g/3/TORRIDGE_and_WEST_DEVON_CONSTITUENCY.pdf (scroll down to the bottom)

Sir Cyril's blatant defection was rewarded when his anointed candidate lost the seat by more than 3,000 votes. I don't think the Tories will miss him somehow.

Didn't he used to be on That's Life with Molly Sugden?

Graeme - don't besmirch the late, great Cyril Fletcher. He was a figure of high seriousness compared to Townsend.

I thought I was a bit of a 'political anorak' but I've never heard of this man.

You took the words right out of my mouth, malcolm.

He could at least have taken John Bercow with him

Townsend achieved very little when he was in Parliament. If that is the best Minger can offer, God help him.

1978 Protection of Children Act? That was his work, I think.

So he did little in the 20 years before he left the House?

Other than Reg Prentice, it's hard to think of a post-war defector who was prominent in their party either before or after their defection.

David Owen and Shirley Williams were prominent defectors from Labour to the SDP.

That wasn't really a defection, that was a creation!

Depends on your defintion of creation!

Perhaps "unintelligent design"!

Well, it's kept the CRD in staff for years, so we'll go with the "unintelligent" bit!

Intelligence (or lack of it) was not the main criteria "under" Alistair Cooke.

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