Emma Nicholson rejoins Conservatives

Over the Summer Emma Nicholson was one of two Liberal Democrat peers who resigned the party’s whip.

Many readers will be sad to see the news today that she has rejoined the Conservative Party, and will be surprised by her reasons, reported in the Guardian:

Her education speech last week showed she leads a party with a real commitment to delivering for the next generation and building a country that works for everyone.

“We in the Conservative party have a great history of diversity, optimism in our people’s creativity and success.

“My greatest strengths are the Conservative strengths and I will be fighting for Britain from the Conservative benches from now on in.

It would have been better if the Liberal Democrat rebuttal could have use the sort of arguments that Tim Farron used the other day in his LBC interview about grammar schools, saying that for every poor child who benefitted, more were disadvantaged from having their life chances blighted at 11. Instead, it just said:

Emma told the party that she disagreed with the party’s position on Europe. She left the party in July.

“Her comments about grammar schools are utterly, totally and completely untrue.”

She left the Tories back in 1995. This Independent profile from the time, she had had real trouble joining that party in the first place and was treated with suspicion by some senior members, being called “unsound” by one in the wake of Thatcher’s resignation in 1990.

I feel very sad that she has given credibility to a horribly divisive Conservative Party, which bears more resemblance to the one she left in the 1990s to the one she joined in the 1970s.




* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • People come and people go, that is life in all parties. Perhaps this does show how the party itself is changing or has changed since the end of the coalition style politics. We are now again an independent force and making headway where a radical party should, in northern England. The recent swings in Lancashire, Durham, Cumbria and parts of Yorkshire have been immense. That is what is important.

  • Liberal Neil 11th Sep '16 - 10:04am

    Emma always was an interesting character and never really fitted the Tories or us.

    Perfectly pleasant, but she always seemed semi-detached when I worked with her as an MP and her main drive for joining us was her strong pro-EU stance.

    She didn’t really engage with the party or do grassroots campaigning, and it was no surpise when Chris Huhne beat her decisively for top of the list in the second MEP selection.

  • So, Emma Nicholson,
    You have gone back to the Conservatives.
    You did a lot of work with refugees
    And seem a bit like a political refugee yourself
    Keith’s mum says you have
    An odder combination of views
    Than David Alton.
    Pushing it a bit, maybe?

    (With apologies to EJ Thribb)

  • Liberal Neil is right about most things but perhaps a little unfair here. As a PPC in Emma’s patch I found her very happy to get stuck in to local campaigning and wonderfully supportive to female candidates in an era when the party’s support for such candidates was thin on the ground or of entirely the wrong order. She is a compassionate campaigner (look at her work supporting abused Yazidi women) and made an impact despite her hearing impairment.

  • Chris Rennard 11th Sep '16 - 12:54pm

    Her defection to us in 1994 provided a great boost to the party at the time, but I do not think that her re-defection (having claimed a Lib Dem peerage in the meantime) will be very much noticed. What is clearly not correct is what the Conservatives are now claiming About her joining them because of their backward, divisive and unsound policy of re-introducing selection. She said that she was seeking to rejoin them some weeks ago before there was any inkling of this policy shift by the Tories. She told us that she was leaving over Europe, even though she has always been a committed supporter of the EU, and we still aware, whilst the Conservative Party is less committed to it than it has ever been.

  • Richard Underhill 11th Sep '16 - 1:03pm

    What is her current position on culling badgers? In her memoirs she ascribes her initial victory as coming from a farmers’ vote in Devon, depending of course, on future scientific evidence, for which there has since been plenty of time.

  • We should be gracious to her at this point and thank her for the massive boost she gave us when she defected, and for all the work she did for the party while she was a member. She campaigned passionately for the marsh arabs in southern Iraq, which put her on the opposite side to the vast majority of Liberal Democrats when it came to the Iraq war, but she stayed with us then. Theresa May’s grammar school plan is just the first of a series of tactics aimed to buy time and divert public attention away from the fact that the government is in a blind panic about our future relationship with the EU and doesn’t have the faintest idea about how to get the country out of the hole Cameron dumped us in. The Conservative Party is heading towards the iceberg – so not a great bit of political judgement on Emma’s part, but I’d guess that at the age of 75 she is not going to be very politically active for much longer anyway.

  • My fist thought were of Emma leaving the Lib Dem lifeboat and climbing abroad the holed Tory Titanic…. ‘ Youre going the wrong way!’ time will tell.

  • Didn’t she join the Lib Dems because of the Tories hostility to the EU. {headscratch}

  • PHIL THOMAS 11th Sep '16 - 8:04pm

    I suspect there will be others crossing the floor in the months to come. Tim Farron is having little impact outside the Westminster bubble. The by election wins are disgruntled voters having a protest and not a real vote for the Lib Dems ?

  • Not too surprised when the public school educated daughter of a Tory baronet M.P. reverts to type…………………

    The decent thing now would be to resign membership of the House of Lords given she’s abandoned the party that provided her life peerage. If the Tories choose to give her a life peerage then good luck with that.

    However, I do genuinely respect the effort she put into supporting the marsh arabs and the courage she displayed in overcoming her hearing disability.

  • David Bailey 11th Sep '16 - 9:00pm

    i support Emma nicholsons decision. What are the libdems for now? The position on Brexit shows they are neither democrat, nor, regrettably liberal. The lentil eating sandal wearers rightly have gone Green ( who had a real agenda and argument for Remain) and the nick clegg biography shows how far you are from the views/prejudices of the British electorate. I am really sad to see your demise, but have no idea where you go from here. The party has nowhere to go. Goodbye!

  • David Bailey: “I am really sad…”
    Only in the yoofspeak sense, I fear!

  • Ruth Bright 12th Sep '16 - 9:29am

    Nice to see that this thread has become slightly more gracious about Emma Nicholson. Sad to lose a prominent woman who has campaigned internationally to protect women from abuse in war, particularly when the Liberal Democrats have precious few prominent women.

  • Phuil Thomas. Nothing new. Liberal, Lib Dem revivals always start with disgruntled voters having a protest. Then it grows with nationally recognisable elecoral success, ie a parliamentary by election. The present situation has all those signs developing again

  • I agree it was huge when she defected to us. (it was 1995 Chris, I think). Thinking about it rationally now, I’m surprised to remember just how huge it was. I mean, it really was top story on the news for a couple of days. That did give us a boost: at a time when the Tories were falling apart and the buzz about new Labour was at its height, she really did give us a relevance and an excitement of our own. As others have said, she was also an additional prominent woman, and she gave us credibility with moderate Tories. I remember going to a federal conference not long afterwards (Southport?) when she spoke at the big rally, and she was loved – really loved – by the members.
    All that said, I’m not sure how much she contributed to our party after that initial infusion of excitement. And she got her MEP years and Peerage in return. To ‘re-rat’ now (in Churchill’s phrase) seems a bit petty, and bizarre – given her stated reasons. Maybe she feels she owes them? But I’d say, on balance, she owes us. But I agree with Chris: no-one will really care.

  • Chris Rennard 13th Sep '16 - 4:49pm

    @ Tony No it was late (very late!) 1994. I was part of the small team that managed her defection and welcomed her into the party: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/tory-defection-how-emma-did-the-deal-to-the-sound-of-harps-and-teacups-1527904.html

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