Chamali and Chandila Fernando join the Conservatives

The London Evening Standard has the story:

David Cameron today hailed the defection of a Liberal Democrat London mayoral hopeful to the Tories.

Barrister Chamali Fernando, 30, from Finchley, ran to be the Lib-Dem candidate for Mayor of London but was defeated by Brian Paddick in 2007.

Ms Fernando’s brother Chandila is also leaving the Lib-Dems to join the Conservatives. The 32-year-old business developer failed in his bid last year to become president of the Lib-Dems.

Mr Cameron said: “I am delighted to welcome Chamali and Chandila to the Conservative party.

“It is very pleasing that two people who have played such an active role at the highest level in the Liberal Democrats have decided that we are the only party that can deliver the change our country needs.

“Every day we are welcoming new people from all parties who share our values on civil liberties, the environment and quality of life issues.”
The Conservatives highlighted that the Fernandos come from a strongly Lib-Dem family.

They said that their father, Sumal Fernando, was the first Sri Lankan to contest a parliamentary seat in the UK, for the Social Democratic Party in Leicester West in 1983. He later stood for the Liberal Alliance in Nottingham North in 1987.

Ms Fernando, who was born in Sri Lanka, first campaigned for the Liberal Democrats at the age of six, and was a member of the party for 20 years.

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  • Yes it does. It was perfectly obvious at the time that they had both stood for those positions for self-promotion reasons. Neither of them was in any way qualified for what they were applying for. So I suspect they’ll fit in nicely with Cameron’s Conservatives!

  • Wasn’t the brother Fernando one of the founding members of Liberal Vision?

    Because this does serve to totally confirm my suspicions in this regard.

  • I am sad to see them go.

    But Chandila is certainly rejoining the Conservatives. He was a member for several years before joining us.

  • Throwing your toys out of the pram or what?

    Shame to see his commitment to progressive changes in the party were not genuine.

    It does make it harder for those of us who share some of his views to be taken seriously now in the party, though maybe that was part of the point?


  • Quelle surprise!

  • Daniel Bowen 16th Jul '09 - 1:05pm

    No surprise at all – their attempts to turn the Party into a narrow neo-Conservative sect were overwhelmingly rejected last year.

    ‘Key players’? I don’t think so.

  • Well, that’s a relief.

  • Liberal Neil 16th Jul '09 - 1:28pm

    Daniel is right when he says: “‘Key players’? I don’t think so.”

    They both stood for serious positions but neither got them.

    Mark V is also right when he says: “if they are liberals, they will be disappointed in due course, and if they aren’t disappointed, it might imply that they weren’t liberals.

    However, they have made their choice and we should respect it.”

  • Nancy Sponge 16th Jul '09 - 1:40pm

    Liberal Vision is very disappointed to read that Chamali and Chandila Fernando are joining the Conservatives. While we respect their personal decisions, we believe that liberalism is best served with the Liberal Democrats and that David Cameron’s party will severely disappoint anyone expecting a liberal agenda.

    Questions must still be asked about the Conservatives’ underlying beliefs on immigration, constitutional reform, the EU and even civil liberties. Meanwhile Cameron avoids all matters of substance, such as how to balance the UK’s budget during and after the recession.

    In the run up to 1997, some Liberal Democrats such as Andrew Adonis were similarly enticed by the rhetoric and electoral advantage of Tony Blair’s New Labour. Yet in spite of the wave of optimism that surrounded their election, New Labour quickly turned into the illiberal machine of old. Who can say that Cameron’s government, should it come to fruition, will not be equally or even more disappointing?

    For clarification: Chandila Fernando resigned from the Liberal Democrats many months ago. In doing so he automatically gave up his ties with Liberal Vision and has not been involved in our work this year.

  • Martin Shapland 16th Jul '09 - 1:52pm

    I’ve been expecting it since Chamali resigned from the Party after sending a letter to Clegg some 6 months ago, I think saying that Ethnic Minorities didn’t get enough support – so it’s no surprise.

    Its a shame, I have a lot of respect for Chamali in particular, she is ambitious but that is no bad thing. I hope that she’s not sacrificed her beliefs for what she thinks is a promise of power – though it does look that way.

    I’m sure the party will cope however.

  • Agree with Mark V. I am always amazed at how people act from anger rather than pity in these matters. They’ve made a personal choice that I disagree with, but it doesn’t make them dramatically worse people than they were a year or two ago. Good luck to them, although I fear they may be disappointed.

  • David Blake 16th Jul '09 - 3:09pm

    I think Andrew Adonis was at one time a member of the SDP.

    It’s always a pity when people leave the party, but it has to be said that the Fernandos were not exactly in line with much of party thinking, were they?

  • “I left the Tories for a number of reasons, but mainly because of their position on race and immigration. As the son of an immigrant myself, I am appalled by the way the Right often takes an extreme, populist and dangerous stance on these sensitive and explosive issues. I am a true liberal and feel at home in the Lib Dems. David Cameron may have given the Conservatives a new-look, but he has not fundamentally changed his party.”

  • “They’ve made a personal choice that I disagree with, but it doesn’t make them dramatically worse people than they were a year or two ago.”

    No, they were just as bad a year or two ago. Self obsession and arrogance are never easy traits to hold in a democratic party.

  • Martin Land 16th Jul '09 - 4:41pm

    I’m going to say this and have Meral or someone shoot at me again, but whilst we need to actively encourage members of ethnic minorities to join the party, we must make it clear (and indeed actually be clear) that the only way to succeed in this party is to work and campaign hard and that being from an ethnic minority (or being a woman for that matter) is not a shortcut to success in the Liberal Democrats. Nor should it be.

  • Antony Hook Antony Hook 16th Jul '09 - 5:08pm

    A lot of people agree with you Martin.

    The only thing that should ever matter in this party is how liberal you are.

  • From what I know about these folks & read above – no loss to us – the tories seem the perfect home – good luck to them.That being said there are plenty of liberals in the other parties (at all levels) & of none who should really be with us – lets work on them & let the self interested go.

  • PS I was going to add – we should be a braod church of liberals/liberal Democrats – not a broad church of liberals/lib dems & Tories/socialists.

  • There are some good Liberals in other parties, and occasionally they may be able to achieve more in their chosen party than in ours – on the face of it Andrew Adonis is a case in point. Think what a loss to the development of a more liberal society it would have been if Roy Jenkins had spent the 1960s fighting hopelessly to get into parliament for the Liberal Party. But it much more commonly seems to me to be the case that people who leave us and end up in other parties either should never have been here in the first place, or have had a perfectly legitimate change of mind about the most appropriate political vehicle for the creation of the sort of society they want to see. Peter Hain is an example of someone who was never a liberal: we always knew he would end up in a Labour Cabinet. John Horam is someone who, I assume, has been on a political journey over the past 30 years, and perhaps he has found his true political home now. Defectors often claim that the party they joined has changed: looking at the history of all three main parties over the past forty years it is difficult to claim that that is not true. Certainly the party I joined 40 odd years ago is not the one I belong to now, but it still represents my philosophy to a greater degree of entirety than any of the alternatives.

  • Chris Nelson 16th Jul '09 - 7:21pm

    In the words of Chandila Fernando himself:
    “I left the Tories for a number of reasons, but mainly because of their position on race and immigration. As the son of an immigrant myself, I am appalled by the way the Right often takes an extreme, populist and dangerous stance on these sensitive and explosive issues. I am a true liberal and feel at home in the Lib Dems. David Cameron may have given the Conservatives a new-look, but he has not fundamentally changed his party. ”


  • It’s a shame to see Chandila go; I felt he was by far the most convincing Presidential candidate.

    I share the fear of Mark (not Valladares) that those of us who shared some of his opinions about the party will now find it harder to make our voices heard.

  • Herbert Brown 16th Jul '09 - 11:13pm


    Looked at another way, perhaps this just reflects the fact that he was misguided when he said “I like the way Nick Clegg is taking the party, and want him to go further.”

    Thankfully the rightward movement didn’t go further – in fact it reversed to some extent. Thankfully there is no longer any danger of the Lib Dems trying to outflank the Tories on the right. So it’s only appropriate that those who favoured that strategy should depart.

  • Peter Dunphy 16th Jul '09 - 11:38pm

    This has been on the cards for a good while, I had even thought about posting about this along the lines of ‘where are the Fernandos – look out Cameron’ but I gave up such blogging a while ago. They had dropped all Party connections and Party links (even from facebook !) and Chandila seems to have been out of Liberal Vison for many months, they had gone very quiet in the Lib Dems (since losing elections) to say the least. Both are intelligent, talented and a loss to the Lib Dems for sure but by their own definition they are from a ‘political family’ – their description, not mine – This ‘family’ were Tory, then SDP, then Lib Dem, then Tory, then Lib Dem again and are now again Tory (for the third time). I wonder if perchance Sumal and the good Mrs Fernando are also now Tories for the third time ? – what does this tell us – a coincidental quadruple Damascene conversion – or a bunch of sheep – I’m sorry Chandila and Chamali – the nature of Liberalism is the triumph of individualism and free thought vs the mindlessless of the pack mentality and acceptance of received wisdom – i.e. prejudice from parents. If either of you had stayed a Lib Dem, when the rest of the family decided to defect (I am sure your curiosity of the impact of your departure will mean you are reading this) that would have been truly brave, and Liberal – I would have had enormously more respect for you – but you took the weak and depressingly predictable option. I wish you were still with us and in a way I wish you well.

  • First in reply to Herbert, you are wrong, wrong, wrong.
    This whole obsession about left/right thing is nauseating, and the fact that you want those that don’t exactly believe in “your” views to depart is shocking….how very illiberal of you.

    Anyway as someone who spent time with both these people at conference, in London and at their home I am extremely disappointed with their decision(I read it in The Standard same as most…although with less surprise)

    I fear that going after what they may think is guaranteed glory with the Tories will disappoint.
    I have personally had many personal knocks within the party but defect! NEVER, just as I could not stop supporting my football team no matter how crap they are I could not so quickly & easily change my political outlook.
    Whatever Nick did it seemed it was not enough(although Chandila along with myself & 2 other colleagues did some telephone canvassing for Nick)

    The disappointing of them not getting in to a “position” in the party angered them, although both still very young in political terms they seemed to take it as a direct personal snub.
    The issue of minorities not being represented well enough is true of all parties but to get elected just because of the colour of your skin, I think not.

    I agree(as they both will) that they always flirted with the Tory party in the past far too easily, mostly because they thought the Tories as having more ambition….or as I see it a lust for power.

    I believe as many have said they will be seriously wrong and I would publically question their motives on defecting on ideological grounds.
    I am no shrinking violate, I once was desperate to “command” a position within the party(we am soon leaving the country so it longer applies) but to defect on a flimsy hope that it may happen with the Tories!

    It is their choice(Mark V is always the voice of reason), but my God I thought I made some stupid moves….guys you have just trumped me 100 fold!

    Disappointedly yours, Rab.

  • The Other Mark (again) 17th Jul '09 - 12:04am

    Sorry Mark V, I shall go by this moniker from now on on the rare occasions I chip in!

  • Herbert is illustrating my point nicely – I certainly didn’t agree with Chandila’s opinions on the political direction of the Westminster party. However, I did agree with his opinions on the organisational direction of the Federal Party, and I am worried about these things being confused.

    Geoffrey, the Bones Report was an inside stitch-up, not something that has any credibility a serious attempt to reform the party from the grass roots. I suspect that had ordinary party members had a realistic chance to contribute to the report, and their opinions been respected, then the final report would have been very different. I have every respect for any Lib Dem who refused to touch it with a bargepole.

  • “two people who have played such an active role at the highest level in the Liberal Democrats”

    Start as you mean to carry on – not actually telling the truth. Possibly what counted against them most in the intrenal party election was a lack of evidence that they played an active role in anything much.

  • Herbert Brown 17th Jul '09 - 8:15am

    Big Mak:
    “This whole obsession about left/right thing is nauseating, and the fact that you want those that don’t exactly believe in “your” views to depart is shocking….how very illiberal of you.”

    If can can stop being “nauseated” long enough to read properly what I wrote you’ll see that I didn’t (of course) say anything about “[wanting] those that don’t exactly believe in [my] views to depart”. I referred to people who wanted to outflank the Tories on the right.

    And it’s ridiculous to assert that “right” and “left” are meaningless. Of course they’re not. It may be convenient for Lib Dems to make that claim, for tactical political reasons, but that’s a different matter.

  • Herbert Brown 17th Jul '09 - 9:58am

    “I think you might have to accept that this is merely “the world as you see it”, …”

    No chance at all of the minority who don’t believe in “left” and “right” doing that, I suppose?

  • Herbert Brown 17th Jul '09 - 10:52am


    Ah well, if that’s all you mean, obviously we all know we can only speak for ourselves.

    And I suppose even members of the Flat Earth Society can tell round-earthers that “that’s only the world as you see it”.

  • Geoffrey, I’m sure if ordinary party members like me had had a realistic chance to contribute to the Bones Report, we would have done so.

  • Herbert Brown 17th Jul '09 - 11:28am


    I’m not entirely sure what “simultaneously outflanking both left and right from a liberal democratic standpoint” means, but I’m sure it must be very different from outflanking the Tories on the right, which is what I said …

  • David Allen 17th Jul '09 - 3:05pm


    Conficius he say, man who simultaneously outflank you both left and right suffer severe anatomical dislocation ..

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