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Bullesye Mr Editor.

I also support David Cameron's change of heart on all this but I fear he's going to be as real about all of this as the environment.

He told us all to be green but took domestic flights, foreign holidays and allowed his car to follow his bike.

Talk of 'change' and 'renewing our democracy' will have to move beyond the easy gimmick. I fear this is no longer just about re-calls and MPs expenses.

We are straying in to the land of constitutional change. That might not involve the merits, or not, of a monarchy but will certainly lead to a debate about the number of politicians we have in this country. When you look at how the US national parliament runs, and compare that with Westminster, we need a lot less people taking a lot more responsibility.

Cameron hasn't thought this through.

It's probably a Steve Hilton wheeze that came into his head last weekend and they all got so excited about and had to implement immediately.

It can still be got right but Alan is right. It can't look as fake as the greenery. There needs to be deep cleaning of politics but not of the Brown-NHS-wards kind!!

Defections are of a different nature today.

In the Churchill era they were about conviction.

Now they are about political careerists.

Oh rubbish. So if someone says they now agree with Cameron that politics needs to change and thus wish to change sides, they shouldn't be allowed to? Rot.

And what evidence do we have that in the Churchill era they were any different?

Hear hear David.

We'd be a pretty wierd Party if we didn't welcome people wanting to join.

And we won't get into Government by simply attracting the "don't know, never knew" - we need to attract those who were once Labour and Lib Dems.

David: I fully support people changing their minds and joining us. The more the better if their conversion is real but if we are serious about being pro-voters the defector might consider getting the endorsement of his or her electors.

In Britain, in our Parliamentary and Local Council elections, sitting politicians are elected as individuals. They are not elected as members of parties. They usually indicate, at the time of their election, that they are inclined to act collectively with a particular party (i.e. faction). But if, over the course of a term, they decide that either they themselves have evolved, the situation has evolved, or their original party has evolved such that they wish to change party - to defect - then that is fully within the letter *and* the spirit of our system. If I weren't too polite to say such things, I might be inclinde to suggest that it is a frankly ridiculous suggestion that defectors should be made unwelcome! Think how many Conservative Prime Ministers have come over from other parties having defected - let's just start with Churchill, Disraeli and Lord Derby. And that's before we even get to the significant ministers we have had that began in other parties. Surely the editors aren't *really* suggesting that the Conservative Party should have refused to accept these people, or insisted that they re-fight their seats (and so face certain defeat and the end of their careers)?

Where is this line of challenge going?! The only destination I see for all this is direct democracy - say, that we have internet-based voting on all potential legislative measures and votes on approving ministers and the government's programme. Is that the idea?

I'm sorry to be so aggressive - as regulars will know, on most issues I am very close to the Editors, and even on this issue I would prefer to be able to disagree politely. But on this business of "transparency" and "accountability" and the whole anti-politician agenda, I'm unhappy to find that I am at significant variance with them.

One last thing - surely no-one seriously believes that if we were the *government*, as opposed to an opposition that still largely doubts that it will win again any time soon, we would be paying any attention to this stuff at all. This is classic oppositional self-indulgence of the sort that isn't going to last five minutes if we had any power and anything serious to do.

This is Pot calling the Kettle black,

Cameron promised that the Tory MEPs would leave the EPP-ED "within not days or months but weeks". They're still there until next year - perhaps .

As for defectors the blog is being ridiculous! People will - and always have - crossed the floor of the house. It's annoying to party zealots but expected. Sometimes I wish some of the Tory MEPs would defect.

Surely we want people to come and join the Conservatives from other parties? That has always been essential to winning elections before. Spelman is dead right that we have to start welcoming defectors rather than demanding ideological purity tests. Cameron is dead right too but he is talking about something completely different. What links them is that Labour's broken promises and the Lib Dems endless inconsistency are part of the reason why after a barron decade people are finally coming to join the Conservatives.

If someone woke up one morning and realised that he'd changed his mind and was in the wrong party and another party had the best ideas, that wouldn't be so bad.

But most defectors are concerned solely with their own gain. One thinks of Saj Karrim or the 300 defectors from Derby.

This explains the unpopularity of defectors in general.

I think this was a most perceptive post Tim and it raises many of the difficulties of defection.
Whilst it is advantageous for the party to welcome defections if we are to maintain the moral high ground defectors should be asked to resign their seats and give their electors the opportunity to confirm their defection. I believe that Andrew Lillico is wholly wrong,in practice the overwhelming majority of electors vote for a party rather than an individual in practice.

Ha! All those nasty defectors breaking their promises [sic] and coming over to the Tories: naff off! Tim Montgomerie, that most holy of holies, does not approve of your deviation from the true path of Thatcherism, and surely you know that's all that matters in the Tory Party today?

The editor (dare we speak his hallowed name?) wants the Conservative Party to be a private sect never getting any more than a third of the vote, so that he and the Tory Taliban can take it over and make it a private debating club obsessed with nothing other than abortion, Europe and Evangelical Christianity.

So clear out! There's a place for people like you - it's called the Labour Party in permanent Government. And don't come back!

Thanks Malcolm. I think you are right in theory Andrew but 90% of voters choose a party and not an individual - in that sense a defection is a broken promise.

I will withdraw the Conservative Party from the EPP by Christmas. (Frimley 23/11/05)

"are we prepared to say that defectors should be subject to the kind of recall mechanism that 27 Tory MPs proposed yesterday"


I will withdraw the Conservative Party from the EPP by Christmas. (Frimley 23/11/05)

Margaret on the Guillotine all I can say is that I agree with you one hundred per cent. If it was left up to the editor and his followers the Conservative Party would die a slow death and Labour would govern this country forever!

Margaret on the Guillotine all I can say is that I agree with you one hundred per cent. If it was left up to the editor and his followers the Conservative Party would die a slow death and Labour would govern this country forever!

Well said, Margaret.

Well said Margaret? Why? Nothing this horrible little coward has to say is well said. Why he/she darkens the door of this blog I don't know.

Can't think what frightens Margaret on the Guillotine about evangelical Christianity - a bit of christophobia here it seems. Perhaps she ought to worry more about real threats to the security of our nation, and also to family life - the family is the basic structure that supports a healthy society.

Abortion, Margaret, happens to be murder of children, so it seems a natural response to be concerned about it. On "Europe", again it seems a natural response for those who are concerned for the future of our country to want to govern ourselves again as a free nation.

But I think the Ed has a point about defections. The people of Grantham didn't vote for a Labour MP. And while we must welcome defections, I think it is wrong for defectors to get fast-tracked, as this raises suspicions about how much a defector's views have changed, and how much the defection is motivated by a perceived easier route to Westminster in a party that is gaining ground etc.

I wonder of DC made a mistake in rebuking Lord Mancroft for his comments on his stay at an NHS hospital. It may have given the appearance of defending sub-standard service, rather than the interests of patients and the public. Would it have been better to acknowledge Lord Mancroft has a right to speak out, the type problems he described and they must be dealt with where they occur, but are not typical of the majority of dedicated NHS staff etc etc. Appearing to support 'producer' interests, sounding like a union spokesman, rather than those of the public, doesn't seem to be very "pro-voter" and won't increase trust in politicians in my view.

The simple way around this would be for DC to re-commit the Conservatives to being open to all , including those in other parties, but if you are a Cllr, AM, MSP, MEP or MP then you must immediately resign your seat and re-stand in the subsequent by-election for the Conservative Party.

This would probably put off the vast majority of those who, for self-interested reasons, have been converted to the conservativism, but it would show real commitment on behalf of the defector (and prevent anybody in the Tory Party from making snide or accusatory comments toward them). It would give them a real mandate with a powerful voice to not only defend the Conservative Party but also attack their former colleagues (for issues hopefully, not personalities).

If they did not manage to win re-election in the by-election they would have nonetheless created a well of support within their new party, and would more than likely be in a great position to stand for the Conservatives in the next electoral contest either in the same seat or elsewhere.

Wouldn't this be a simple way for the leadership to 1) continue their message of honesty/openness in politics and 2)hopefully attract the best possible candidates who are dissolutioned with their current parties, whilst at the same time disuading the worst kind of defectors, who would probably see this process as too much hard work. Any takers in CCHQ, or ConHome?

To read one or two posts here anyone would think that what was being discussed was tantamount to the destruction of our democratic system. It's almost as if giving the voter a 'choice' is a dirty word.

Personally, I think it is just a small but welcome change that in practice will be rarely used.

Of course the party should welcome defectors and of course the voter should have the right to recall that representative should he defect.

After all the defector will only last in his post until the next election if it is not supported by his voters. All this would do is give them the chance to address the issue earlier (and allow the party to find an alternative perhaps more suitable candidate at the next regular election if the defector has been kicked out).

Individuals are rarely elected initially on their personal position (although they may build up personal support over time). They are normally elected on their parties position at whatever level. Does anyone seriously believe than anymore than 1% of the population actually have a clue what is going on in Brussels for example, let alone know what position their MEP's have taken?

However, just because someone defects shouldn't automatically mean they have to be re-elected. Surely its a case of providing the voters with an option to recall. It's only right that they have a choice. After all we are supposedly the party of choice?

If the voters feel sufficiently unhappy about the defection they then can do something about it. Chances are in most cases they would not bother.

Further to my previous post on this thread, I meant also to comment on David Cameron attack on "broken promises": what about the promise to leave the EEP? Agree with christina speight (1806)on this.

"Lancashire and Cumbria" - add Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire to that as Sajjad Karim was elected by the whole of the north west...

This is a battle Cameron can never win:

a) Cameron is seen as a self serving opportunist who has no political convictions. This is the man who couldn't even be bothered to support the Conservatives when at Oxford despite the Mid Thatcher post miners strike political climate being an incredibly heated time. He only went to CCO when he failed to land a job as a management consultant.

b) His claim to support transparency and honesty can not be reconciled with his refusal to come clean on his own, pre 2001, past - I'm entitled to a private life so don't ask me about cocaine use.

C) His, correct, statement that politicians are held in contempt because they break promises is not helped by the fact that he has broken the only promise he made in his leadership -
I promise we'll leave the EPP in weeks, not days.

D) As a career spin doctor, accused by Jeff Randall and others of being misleading, Cameron cannot credibly position himself as anti pr and spin.

E) A Bullingdon Etonian, surrounded by his ilk, is simply not credible as an anti establishment figure - particularly set against Brown who is seen as a relatively humble an deeply driven son of the manse, self denying, with lifelong convictions.

Tilting at windmills, again. Huskies, hoodies, Hutus, and now moralising high ground.

This is back to basics with the Buillingdon boys.

He just doesn't get it - a the ultimate political insider, surrounded by insiders, he can never represent the anti establishment candidate. He and Hilton spent too long watching the West wing and dreaming of Santos. Obama can carry it off, Bullingdon Dave, a rich and well connected professional Spin doctor can not.

A really thoughtful post Editor.

I'm not sure I agree with you on the particular issue of defection but you are right to say that it is vital that Cameron implements this properly.

If he spins shallow responses to voter distrust he'll only add to cynicism and his own reputation as a PR man.

Full marks to the Leader and the Chairman for extending the hand to people who feel attracted by the new message we are putting across. Defections have always happened and always will happen but we should salute the fact that 'defections' are coming in our direction rather than the other way round. Defections from us in the 90s were seen as a very good sign or our declining fortunes - defections to us in the 21st Century should be viewed as a hallmark of our resurgence. It seems almost absurd to me that we are criticising people who feel attracted to and hope to join a resurgent Conservative Party.

Thanks Disrael but you are writing like a politician!

The voters of Grantham didn't vote for Quentin Davies. They voted to have a Conservative MP. They don't have one today because he joined the high-taxing, high-regulation, rural-unfriendly Labour party. We may like the fact that most defectors are travelling Torywards at present but if we are serious about restoring public trust in politics we need to go beyond celebrating converts and consider whether they should resign their seats and win the endorsement of their electors for their switch.

If they lose that battle we may be able to find them new berths but I think the tension between the issues I identify above is real.

Editor, I'm not sure that history records Winston Churchill or Joseph Chamberlain in a less favourable light because they were 'defectors'. Surely we should at least celebrate the fact that our message is compelling?

Yes, Disraeli, WE can celebrate defectors to the Conservatives but where does that leave the people who thought they had voted for something else?

The electorate will surely pass their own judgement at the next election. Given that they elect a representative rather than a delegate.

The point is that the two parties are largely indistinguishable, so defection involves no great change of convictions.

These are not defectors - they are careerists and that is the problem!

Just like to add my support to this fine piece.

We'll just have to agree to disagree Disraeli.

Your answer to my question is perfectly consistent with how we have traditionally seen an MP's relationship with their constituents. I accept that.

My point is that times have changed and I favour defections with accountability to electors.

Editor and others favouring the post here - I have a question: If it were technically feasible, would you favour direct democracy, say internet-based? If everyone in the country had a secure broadband line, and legislative measures and amendments were put up on the internet with, say, a week or two's notice of the vote deadline, and we debated it out in the blogs and then voted (the vote wouldn't have to be all at one moment, there could be a window) - would you think this better?

I wouldn't. I believe in representative democracy, not direct democracy, and my belief in this is not a matter of what is technically feasible. I want to elect legislators who will study issues in more detail than I have time to, who will form themselves into factions so as to produce coherent programme, who will gather wisdom and experience over time, and so on.

Because I favour representative democracy, even as a matter of theory, I
- oppose referendums (even on European Treaties)
- oppose candidate recall
- oppose consultation exercises whereby the Executive appeals over the heads of our elected representatives directly to the public
- oppose all forms of proportional representation that encourage a party-based concept of what voting is about
and all other assaults on Parliamentary (representative) democracy.

I'm actually quite shocked that there seems to be so widespread support amongst Conservatives for these things that I oppose, and would have expected almost any Conservative to oppose. I guess it's a reflection of how far we've drifted (or, perhaps, how desperate we've become)...

Although I am a LibDem and will not be voting Conservative in 2009 (or ever), in fairness to Cameron I must point out that the assertions of oh dear at 21:30 last night are mostly wrong. Cameron has always been a Conservative and never wavered from support for Thatcher in the 80s, even though this made him a minority at university. I don't think any Tory has anything to fear from him.

I might have my doubts about the Tory Party as it is, but I think the country needs a broad-based conservative party. It doesn't do to sneer at the work he has embarked upon.

"Cameron has always been a Conservative and never wavered from support for Thatcher in the 80s, even though this made him a minority at university. I don't think any Tory has anything to fear from him."

Sorry Asquith - you are wrong. When he was at Brasenose he was asked to join OUCA, the University Consevative Association. He refused as it was beneath him. He did nothing during that period, which included the 1987 election, to show support for the Conservative party.

He was is a minority as a Student, but it was as a Bullingdon boy, not as someone who supported Thatcher.

I'm glad that with few exceptions such as 'oh dear's' the the attacks on David Cameron regarding the school his parents sent him to and his days at University from generally anonymous cowards have declined on this blog.
Regarding your points Andrew Lillico, Tims attitude to defectors is politically risky and may involve some shert term pain for the party. I completely fail to see how this is an example of 'desperate' behaviour at all.If it helps in restoring the public's faith in our political system it will be a price very worth paying.

I've no idea whether Cameron joined OUCA, but my recollection of Oxford in the late 1980s was that OUCA was a bit of an embarrassment - it's leading lights arguing for reducing the age of consent to 12 and privatising the army, then going off to get drunk in the Union bar and sing "Haaaang...Nelson Mandela". Few respectable Conservatives would have much to do with OUCA, even though they often felt obliged to be members. Serious Conservatives hung with the Oxford Union crowd, not with OUCA (at least until our Putsch when we got Rees-Mogg in as leader in '91).

Andrew: I do not support the kind of direct democracy you propose at 08.49.

I am happy to give my support to a trustworthy Conservative MP for a four or five year term and trust him or her to make decisions for me that I don't have the time to study.

However if he or she defects to another party I'd quite like the opportunity to recall them and put someone in their place who is a trustworthy Conservative.

Equally if they propose to give away powers that means the next time I vote for an MP that MP will be less powerful I should be consulted on that transfer of power.

Indeed. I'm all in favour of people joining the Conservatives, and we should welcome new joiners. However, if they are elected under the banner of another party, then it is a simple matter honesty that put themselves in front of their electorate again. We shouldn't accept them as members of our Party unless they make a committment to re-stand within 3 months.

It annoys me that defectors are usually the most unprincipled people in politics.

I find myself sympathising with Andrew Lilico and his cry from the heart. I also oppose PR and all its works, because it seems to leave a constant mess of horse deals with opposition parties.

But I think there is a need for referenda on such things as our relationship with the EU and there is also a need for public consultations, particularly for local issues like land-use planning.

Nevertheless, to return to the Quentin Davies question: Andrew Lilico must, surely, concede that most people who vote in a general election, are voting mostly for a party - the party that they want to see run the country. Their reasons for doing so vary; it may be deep seated political belief or a more tribal thing ("I've always voted Lab/Con/Lib and so did my father/ grandfather" etc). For this reason, I feel that whilst those who cross the floor may be welcomed into their new party, they should nevertheless have to stand in a by-election for re-selection by their constituents. After all, in standing as a candidate in a general election, the candidate is making a commitment to follow the manifesto of a particular party. In crossing the floor of the House of Commmons, they have effectively broken their election promises and so have also broken their promise to their constituents.

If that proviso were made, then I suspect that the more unprincipled and self interested career MPs would think twice, whilst those that really did undergo a Pauline conversion would be well worth receiving into their new party.

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