Lib Dem PPC defects to Tories

News reaches us via Conservative Home and the Telegraph that Norsheen Bhatti, the Liberal Democrat PPC for Chelsea and Fulham, has defected to David Cameron’s party.

It is odd that Tory Chairman (and Lib Dem Voice favourite) Eric Pickles suggested to The Telegraph that the environment was one area where his party shares Liberal Democrat values. As the paper notes, Ms. Bhatti’s own website was criticising the Tories’ sabotage of the Lib Dem bill against fuel poverty only last month.

Ms. Bhatti’s move comes hot on the heels of news that Tory A-List candidate Beverly Nielsen has defected to the Liberal Democrats and is standing for the party in this June’s elections.

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  • Daniel Bowen 26th Apr '09 - 1:16am

    Norsheen (or Nauseem as she was) has had a habit of resigning from positions and not doing any work. I’m sure this is not the first time she has resigned from the party.

    Not exactly a great loss!

  • Hmm, I wonder if she read the Independent’s story today about Cameron’s freebie jolly trip to apartheid era South Africa??

    Ms. Bhatti may want to rejoin the Lib Dems after reading up on this:

  • Alex Agius. 26th Apr '09 - 2:49am

    I knew that everyone in Chelsea and Fulham votes Conservative but this is taking it to a new level.

  • Paul Griffiths 26th Apr '09 - 11:27am

    I’ve met Ms Bhatti and far from being “not exactly a great loss” she impressed me as being a determined and resourceful young woman.

  • “he was an activist in LDYS as well?”

    Was this in about 97-98? Name vaguely rings a bell of someone working in Paul Keetch’s office at the time.

    Mind you being an LDYS activist doesn’t automatically equal a great loss (Mark Glover, Phil Jones, my ex-Tory candidate Liz Truss…..)

  • Rabi Martins 26th Apr '09 - 12:27pm


    As you say – “It’s been a good few years since Lord Dholakia took it on as a cause and yet we really do not seem to have a liberal alternative to shortlists and positive discrimination that works”
    And I have been working on the issue for een longer – in fact ever since the 1997 general election when the Party fielded more ethnic minority candidates then either Labour or the Tories

    To his credit Nick Clegg has shown that he is fully committed to addressing the issue of ethnic minority deficit within the Liberal Democrats Parliamentary Parties. But even he is only promising radical action for the election after next

    The Tories on the other hand are creating the impression that they are willing to get more ethnic minorities into Parliament now.
    In 2005 they even dared stand a black candidate in Windsor of all places – and won!

    Whilst Liberal Democrats on the other hand did not even feel it necessary to treat our only constituency with an ethnic minority MP – Leicester South – as a key target seat!

    I know from personal experience that the Tories are actively seeking out Liberal Democrat BME candidates because they sense that the majority of them are unhappy at the rate of progress on the issue within the Party.

    Their line is an effective one. They say “Liberal Democrats are the mot vocal on the issue of making Parliament more representative but the slowest to do anything about it” And then as if to prove their point they reel off examples such as the one above or the fact that an ethnic minority candidate will be contesting Maidstone – a safe Tory seat held by Anne Widdicombe

    Why then should we be surprised when politically ambitious and highly competent ethnic minority Liberal Democrats like Norsheen Bhatti decide to pursue their political ambitions in another Party if they are made to believe that by so doing they will achieve their goal that much sooner

  • “Why then should we be surprised when politically ambitious and highly competent ethnic minority Liberal Democrats like Norsheen Bhatti decide to pursue their political ambitions in another Party if they are made to believe that by so doing they will achieve their goal that much sooner”

    We shouldn’t be surprised at all if their goal is personal advancement rather than the pursuit of political principle.

    Unless you think that the Lib Dems are now so close to the Conservatives that there are no important differences of principle, of course.

  • The main advantage of not contesting seats where the Lib Dems are in third place, (unless they are within 8 or so points of second place) is that it would allow an “if we’re on your ballot paper, we’re not a wasted vote” slogan at the next election. However, it would also avoid the sometimes embarrassing antics of third-placed candidates such as Ms Bhatti and going back to Alec Kellaway and beyond.

  • I don’t understand Hugh’s point. However, people get involved in politics for all kinds of reasons and there will always be people in all parties who experience an epiphany; fall out with their colleagues; decide to enhance their career prospects; or are pressurised in some way; and change their allegiance. Quite clearly we do not have as much to offer by way of career opportunities as a Conservative Party that is consistently polling over 40%.

  • Rabi Martins 26th Apr '09 - 3:12pm


    Of course there are some key differences of principle between the Conservaties and Liberal Democrats – But there are also many areas where we both hold similar views

    Why else would Liberal Democrats agree to form joint administration with the Tories to run some Local Councils?

    But if you come to the conclusion – rightly or wrongly – that the chances of achieving your political goals are zero to nil, because the Liberal Democrats are unlikely to do much to make Parliament more representative in the forseeable future, and you happen to belong to one of the under represented groups, you are hardly likely to hang around forever are you?

  • It’s annoying and embarassing when defections like this happen but if Norsheen was the type of person to swap parties for personal advancement, better we find out now than mid-election or worse once she was already elected as a Liberal Democrat.

    I have to disagree fundamentally with Hugh for three reasons

    1 – You just never know when whatever meagre campaigning a third-place seat might have done will be needed as the foundation of a by-election campaign.

    2 – all parts of the UK now vote in some kind of election or another by Proportional Representation. That means that we need to be active, contesting elections and able to get out the votes of Lib Dems wherever they are. Not being on the ballot for FPTP elections means our local members have even less incentive to do the campaigning, voter ID and organisational work that will get Lib Dem votes in ballot boxes and make the difference between no MEP in a region or winning one; or between winning 1 MEP and winning 2.

    3 – There are seats we will be targeting in 2010 where we are currently 2nd and which in 2001 and 1997 we were nowhere near winning – but we worked them, contested them and now we can win them.

  • Point 2, of course, applies equally to gaining list members in the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly or the GLA too.

  • If candidates are more interested in their own election prospects rather than the principles of the party they are elected as part of then IMHO they are candidates we can do without.

    @Hugh, we won in my local constituency in 2005 despite being 3rd and 15% behind first placed Labour in the 2001 Election.

  • “But if you come to the conclusion – rightly or wrongly – that the chances of achieving your political goals are zero to nil, because the Liberal Democrats are unlikely to do much to make Parliament more representative in the forseeable future, and you happen to belong to one of the under represented groups, you are hardly likely to hang around forever are you?”

    Perhaps not, but on the other hand it seems strange to jump straight into bed with a party whose policies you have hitherto been very critical of. It seems to me that in this case the paramount “political goal” is the furtherance of Norsheen Bhatti’s career.

  • Call me old-fashioned but it just seems very discourteous to me that if this lady had doubts about her belief in Liberalism she should have stood down as ppc before announcing her defection.

  • “Whilst Liberal Democrats on the other hand did not even feel it necessary to treat our only constituency with an ethnic minority MP – Leicester South – as a key target seat!”

    1) It isn’t the only Lib Dem seat with an ethnic minority MP – unless you have an of odd definition which excludes the son of refugees from Stalin’s purges.

    2) I’m not sure we didn’t treat Leicester South as a key target – I know someone who was sent there as an campaign organiser and I doubt he would have been sent on a frivulous task.

  • Grammar Police 26th Apr '09 - 10:05pm

    I have met Ms Bhatti and, indeed, I’ve been on the recieving end of a truly terrible selection campaign from her, for a GLA constituency seat (she lost the selection extraordinarily badly).

    Always bad when a PPC defects; the shame being that in this instance, I think it’s the way this defection is portrayed as opposed to the actual loss itself.

  • Horrible and hugely worrying, to hear anyone justifying changing parties based on probability of getting elected. I would suggest that anyone who attempts to justify this should consider their future in politics now.

    We need more bme candidates, but we are a democratic party, the tories can do it cos they can selesct over the heads of members, we can’t because we have democrats in our title – like it or lump it.

    By the way, if clegg does use special measures after the next election, he`ll need to get it through conference and I just can’t see that happening – sorry.

  • Matthew Huntbach 26th Apr '09 - 10:34pm

    Rabi Martins

    Why then should we be surprised when politically ambitious and highly competent ethnic minority Liberal Democrats like Norsheen Bhatti decide to pursue their political ambitions in another Party if they are made to believe that by so doing they will achieve their goal that much sooner

    No surprise at all – it show us what their ambitions are – self-promotion, egotism, power for themselves. You say Norsheen Bhatti can achieve her goal much sooner by joining the Conservative Party, well that tells us what her goal is – power for Norsheen Bhatti. There are, unfortunately, too many people like that in politics. They will go along saying all the things they think they are expected to say as a keen member of the party, and the only way you can really tell is behind the keenness is a certain flatness, a lack of any real emotional commitment, and a self-centredness which means it’s really all about “me, me, me”.

    Look – the genuine honest defector agonises about it. You can tell he or she is unhappy about aspects of the party, there is a period where the person is obviously questioning the party and is certainly not happily promoting it, and the person feel bad when going, bad to let down former colleagues, wishes to explain it carefully in policy terms, and clearly doesn’t expect instant promotion in the new party.

    The egotist is one day happily promoting one party, the next day denouncing it, and underneath the reason is “It’s all about me – I can achive my goal – power for me – better in the new party”.

    If someone is highly ambitious, but their ambition is just for themselves, we shouldn’t want them in the party. I don’t want ambitious politicians in the sense of people who just want self-glorification and power for themselves. I want, in fact, politicians who don’t have personal ambitions, polticians who are doing what they do out of a sense of duty, self-effacing politicans who will perform wonders when asked, but who aren’t jumping forward saying “me, me, me”.

    I am rather afraid that our mechanisms for getting PPCs tend to work the wrong way, leafing us to having too many self-ambitious egotists there, not enough self-effacing people who are really committed to duty to our ideals and the people we wish to represent.

    Unfortunately, simplistic mechanisms to discriminate in favour of people whose surface characteristics we feel we want more of in candidates work ideally for the me-me-me egotist. We see a bright enthusiastic person, and because the person is an egotist who says whatever it is he or she thinks needs to be said to gain promotion with us, we think “great, here’s someone who’s got everything we want, and s/he’s of that desired group as well”. We don’t look too closely at what’s underneath. As a consequence, sadly, we seem to have quite a high proportion of ethnic minority people who’ve embarrassed us in this way.

    The real minority who are savagely discriminated against in politics, and we do absolutely sod-all about it in our mechanisms for getting PPCs, are people who are quiet and shy and don’t have the alpha-male characteristics. Positive discrimination on other factors but doing nothing about this just means we get ultra-alpha-male PPCs of all sexes and races.

  • Perhaps she was so impressed by Eric “cutting costs by having two homes” Pickles on question time? Perhaps she realised waiting for electoral reform was a bit long term as opposed to Dave Camerons suggestion that she might be found a seat if a collegue retires ? Perhpas she really does think a part can represnt “all views” – she will certainly find alot of BNP and UKIP in the Tories, I think the Tories are like new Labour and add in the actual conservatives and they represent a broad church.

  • Shes probably been offered the prospect of a plum safe seat by the Tories or at least its been hinted at. Someone so unsure of themselves and so selfish is no great loss. I was not very impressed with her at the 05 election when she stood in Battersea – more hot air and glamour than anything substantial

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th Apr '09 - 2:10pm


    I think we risk jumping to conclusions, there is really very little information available from which we can judge why she left the party.
    Defections are part of political life. They always happen in all directions. We should bear in mind that sometimes someone stays within a political party for egotistical reasons as well.

    I do not know the woman, I vaguely remember her as being on the list of potential GLA candidates for which London members had a selecting vote, but I don’t remember her making any sort of impression on me that would have led me either to place her high on my preference list or low. From what I recall, she was one of those people you put in the middle when you’ve run out of people you like and want some fillers to make sure those you hate are way down.

    So, yes, what I’ve said is to a very great extent to surmise, but my feeling is that a principled defection would be accompanied by signs that the person is unhappy in the party on more than the grounds given here. I did search the web to see if I could find any of this from Norsheen Bhatti, but I couldn’t. I’d be less critical if she was someone who was always a bit of a right-winger, or who had some other policy stands which might have eventually led to a principled move to the Conservative Party. If anyone knows her and can provide me with some indications on these lines, I’d actually be grateful to hear them, it would to a considerable extent set my mind at rest on this awkward issue.

    Sorry, but Rabi Martins’ line is not helping here at all, and it was more in response to that I was posting. He is effectively saying that people like Ms Bhatti aren’t really interested in what our party stands for, they’re just interested in glory for themselves and getting people of the right colour into Parliament – so our party and our work as activists is just a tool they are using to fulfill their own ambitions. Sorry, Mr Martins, I don’t want to be used as a tool like that, and your words will mean any candidate you present to me in future will be viewed with suspicion – which is surely the exact opposite of what you are trying to do i.e. trying to persuade us that there are good potential candidates in the ethnic minorities and we should make sure we don’t overlook them.

    Anders says he always saw Norsheen Bhatti as “quite keen and able”, but what I’m saying here is a word of caution on “keenness”. My experience is that a great many people who come across as very keen are actually just saying whatever it is they think will give them personal advancement. For that reason, in candidate selection, we should perhaps be a bit cautious about surface keenness. A candidate who comes across as less keen, is willing to entertain some doubts about some aspects of the party, seems to have his or her own principles which he or she is willing to stick to, even at the cost of losing out in the popularity stakes may in the long term be a better bet.

    It’s a matter of personal judgement we all must make when casting our votes in selections. But I do think there are too many people who are successful at that stage because they have the personal charm and personal ambition at the cost of not having deep commitment to our aims and objectives.

  • Oh well, too late she will be able to read in the times how women fare in the Conservative Party 🙂 Thank heavens Damian McBride isn’t commenting on them but one of Camerons aides.

    David Cameron has lined up an all-male team to attack Labour over the economy, raising concerns within his own ranks that he has downgraded his pledge to promote women in the Conservative Party.

    Three years after he vowed to “end the scandal of under-representation of women in the party” there are just seven women in the Shadow Cabinet and three on the party’s Board.

    Only 69 of the 331 prospective Tory parliamentary candidates are women. The European Parliament and Welsh and London assemblies each have one elected Tory woman. Mr Cameron’s senior backroom team is male dominated, with men in all the top jobs and in 11 out of 17 non-administrative roles.

    A high-profile female parliamentary candidate said: “The fact that there are not more women in the inner circle inevitably affects policy. It’s deeply worrying.”

    Unease about the role of women in Mr Cameron’s party has been growing since his reshuffle in January, when he removed Caroline Spelman as party chairman, failed to increase the number of women in the Shadow Cabinet and did not promote ministers such as Justine Greening and Maria Miller as many expected.

    Aides say that many existing female MPs have underperformed and point out that just 17 of the 125 female MPs in Parliament are Conservatives.

    Ms Spelman was demoted after a parliamentary inquiry into her Commons allowances. A senior Conservative said that Theresa May was regarded as a “mechanical” media performer. Neither Baroness Warsi and Baroness Neville-Jones has fulfilled initial expectations when they joined the Shadow Cabinet in 2007.

  • Matthew Huntbach 29th Apr '09 - 9:00pm

    I think it’d be a good idea to read why she said she left in the Times.

    I did. She gives no argument for anything she says. She gives no example of anything Nick Clegg has said or done which would support her assertion that he is “so very out of touch with everyday life and people in our country”. She gives no examples of anything David Cameron has said or done to support her assertion that he would “encourage those people who are feeling disenfranchised to think about politics, participate and join in the debate”. An argument by unsupported assertions is useless, her inability to provide any suggests she has no reason except the most obvious one – it’s an easier line to power being a Tory.

  • I agree with Matthew on this last point.
    Its now clear that Norsheen had been in talks for some time with the Tories, and personaly attacking Nick Clegg, and citing his speech in the reasons she gave for leaving – or rather what Conservative Central Office wrote for her – was spurious and disingenuous. As a committed Liberal Democrat I could never contemplate joining the Tories (and I have been approached in the past)
    Morever its all very well citing how the Tories have put people in their held seats, or can offer a seat, but a) we do not have as many ‘safe seats’, and b) even if we did, we are a devolved party, and it is not in the Party Leader’s gift to simply parachute people into these seats, as seems to be the case with Cameron. If Norsheen feels more comfortable in the Party that has councillors who believe women should ‘walk down the street naked…!’, then good luck to her. I’ve spoken to a number of BME women within the Tory party, and have to say they have not found it at all easy to either get selected, or receive any recognition within the party ranks. The old boys network is alive and well. I recognise that they have selected a number of high profile BME PPCs, and great credit to them, but they know that they have to do this if they want to be in government. It is disappointing that Norshhen has defected, but if she feels more confortable within the Tory party, that is her right.

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