The defection of seven, later eight, Labour party members became huge news in political circles. Some party members mourned the loss of great party assets, others wished to join them, a few thought they were traitors and others celebrated their departure.
Only the next day, three Conservative MPs defected to the new ‘Independent Group.’ These three were Heidi Allen (MP for South Cambridgeshire), Anna Soubry (MP for Broxtowe) and Dr. Sarah Wollaston (MP for Totnes). Just like the reaction for Labour, members of the Conservative Party immediately gave their opinions. Some expressed sadness, some wondered if they should leave too whilst others rejoiced, seeing the three as too ‘wet’ for a supposedly conservative party.
Obviously, there is some question as to whether their defection was a positive or negative thing. Judging by reactions by members, through both official channels and social media, here are points in both favour and against so that you, the reader, can make a decision:
In Favour of the Defection:
1. They Did Not Stick with the Manifesto- The 2017 Conservative manifesto was very clear- ‘when we leave the European Union’ and ‘following the historic referendum on 23rd June 2016, the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union.’ Allen, Soubry and Wollaston are all remainers who have pushed for either a soft Brexit or a People’s Vote, something that the majority of party members aren’t comfortable with. Whilst the former Labour MPs left due to an increasingly left wing ideology as well as a toxic atmosphere, the three former Tories left due to views on Brexit- the aforementioned ‘Magnificent Seven’ all have unfavourable views on leaving the EU. If Allen, Soubry and Wollaston have issues with the manifesto they campaigned on and were voted in on, then it is only fair they part ways.
2. They Are Not Very Conservative - Each of these ladies is inarguably on the left of the party, or at the very least centre. Whilst Soubry has a more extensive history of voting for conservative policies, Allen and Wollaston are often uncharitably referred to as Lib Dems for their softer views. In a party that is becoming increasingly more left wing and big government, many grassroots and some MPs wish for a truly conservative government. The name of the party is the Conservative Party after all, so it’s a fair wish to have. This leaves room for more conservative MPs to take their place in any elections.
1. The Party is a Broadchurch - You have One Nation members like Theresa May, Thatcherites such as David Davis and Traditionalists like Jacob Rees-Mogg. Allen, Soubry and Wollaston all bring new views and perspective to parliament, allowing them to represent more liberal members of the party. We want to have different views; even if the party is conservative- many do not want a strictly uniform policy. With these defections, some party members are considering leaving as they do not feel welcome.
2. Weakness in Government - Theresa May presides over a minority government due to the catastrophe that was the 2017 election. Labour is already in opposition, and that’s what the Independent Group is, so they can technically afford to lose people. The Conservatives cannot, however, do not want to lose their majority. Whilst it is also equally bad press for the Labour Party to lose members, the reasoning of the former Tories as well as the timing makes the Conservative Party look weak- their own members cannot trust them in government and how they handle Brexit.
The initial seven Labour defectors were named ‘The Magnificent Seven,’ whilst the three Conservatives were ‘The Three Amigos.’ There’s a chance that more will defect as the group proceeds, with Labour members feel more secure in doing it and Conservatives unhappy with the idea of a no-deal Brexit. For both parties, there are significant problems, so we are probably yet to see the worst of the damage.
Hopefully readers will draw their own conclusions after reading this. We can hope for a unifying force in British politics, but at this time, it is somewhat doubtful.
by Sarah Stook