The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

The Defection Myth

Posted by The Futility Monster on December 15, 2009 @ 08:56

As stories emerge this morning about how Labour allegedly tried to get Commons Speaker John Bercow to defect to them, in my mind the old problem emerges.

What about democracy?

I’m one of these crazy people who believes the electorate don’t vote for a person. At least, not here in the UK, under our political culture. When the time comes to vote, people look first and foremost for the party label, and if they can’t read, they’ll look for the logo. It’s The Rose! as Westlife once sang; and that’s where you shall place your X. Or any other mark, since returning officers aren’t that bothered really…

There may be a handful of people who claim to vote to endorse their local MP personally. But that’s broadly because they are the fortunate few that have a good individual candidate in the party that they would support anyway. If they don’t stand at the next election, one rather suspects that they would carry on supporting that party anyway, or at least not vote at all.

Then there are others who claim they support their MP, despite them not being a member of the party they actually support. Of course, it’s very easy to say such things inbetween elections. It doesn’t preclude them, come voting time, from doing everything in their power to see them unseated. I’d be shocked if it was any other way. After all, we all want our own party to win, don’t we?

No, we have never really had a personal touch at the Westminster level. We support the candidate who matches our party. We are party voters first and foremost.

So when an MP turns his back on his or her party, my requirements are simple.

They should resign.

The people of Grantham did not vote for a Labour hack. Neither did the voters of Witney, when Shaun Woodward moved to the Labour Party, and in the process got himself a nice safe Labour seat, allowing David Cameron to become the MP for there at the subsequent election.

MPs should not have the audacity to claim that their mandate is a personal one. That gives them too much prestige, too much status. They are – first and foremost – a member of the party machine.

Because defections are grubby, greasy little affairs. They are not done of a sudden Damascene conversion in philosophy. Shaun Woodward did not suddenly wake up one morning and realise he had been living a lie: that he wasn’t a Tory after all.

No, he did it because he saw the shambles of the Tory Party at the time and realised he had bigger prospects elsewhere. And no doubt was promised a leg-up the ladder. After all, he is now a member of the Cabinet. And Quentin Davies hasn’t done too badly either.

And it sounded like Labour were up to their old tricks in Buckinghamshire as well. Just imagine if Bercow had followed them. He would have turned an 18,000 Tory majority on its head.

Could that fairly be called democracy?

So let’s do away with the myth that it’s OK to defect and not have a fresh election. That’s just a convenient way of making sure you don’t have to have your actions held to account by your own electorate.

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