Second senior Greater Manchester Lib Dem defects to Labour

It’s only a couple of weeks since Lib Dem Voice noted the defection of Denton and Reddish parliamentary candidate Paul Moss from the Lib Dems to Labour. Now comes news of a second defection, this time of Karen Wright, a former Lib Dem leader on Tameside council and a councillor for 12 years, until she stood down in 2008. The Manchester Evening News reports:

Explaining her decision to quit the Lib Dems, Ms Wright said: “The timing of my move was always going to be difficult but, the failure of the Lib Dems to put forward a candidate in the by-election in Denton North East was the final straw for me. While I’ve always believed in positive campaigning and have no interest in slating my old party, it’s become obvious to me that the Lib Dems in Tameside have become disorganised and are now showing little sign of understanding what local people need.”

A north west Liberal Democrat spokesman said it had supported Ms Wright through her relationship problems and thanked her for her service. He said: “We are disappointed that Karen has chosen to join the Denton and Reddish Labour Party at a time when the Liberal Democrats, who run Stockport council, have just received the strong backing of many local people with the Lib Dems topping the poll in the European Elections across Stockport.”

I know nothing of the local or personal circumstances – though I do know enough about defections to know there’s normally more than meets the eye or makes it into the press release – but it strikes me that your party not putting forward a candidate in a by-election must be one of the oddest reasons on record for deciding to defect to an opposing party.

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  • If you local party has collapsed to the point of not being able to field a by-election candidate, and you think one of the remaining parties is better at representing local people than the other, then yes, I can imagine there are party members who would leave.

    More seriously, why did the LD statement mention Karen’s relationship problems? I have no idea what they are or were, but I think she deserves a bit of privacy here. That is negative campaigning at its worst on our part, and someone somewhere should be told that behaviour like that is unacceptable.

  • Jackie Pearcey 15th Jul '09 - 11:46pm

    There’s a lot of history and sorrow behind events in Tameside in recent years. Two people have defected giving their reasons the failure to put up a candidate in a by-election, and yet they are the very two people (the PPC and the ex-leader on the Council) who would have been expected to ensure that there was one! This leads me to suspect that this might have been planned for a while and the outcome of the selection for the other by-election would have made little long-term difference (and in fact might have led to that old trick, a mid-campaign defection of a by-election candidate).

    Karen has been through a lot in recent years. When Peter was convicted of the serious domestic assualt which hospitalised her, she became the sole Lib Dem on Tameside (he automatically lost his seat) and I understand that on a personal level many of the local Labour Party were highly supportive to her personal situation whilst many neighouring Lib Dems (myself included) had difficulties even contacting her as she had to leave home with her children and her contact details concealed until after the trial for her personal safely.

    However, behind this was an element of deception and covering up not only of the domestic situation which is understandable but still wrong, but also debts which is also wrong and can give us all a bad name. Deception in terms of identity is another and very serious matter and hardest of all to resolve in terms of who knew what and when. Liberal Democrats across the North West Region believed that the man now known to have been Peter MacIntyre (who had previously been imprisoned for war crimes in Angola) was in fact called Peter Wright, with no criminal record and was married to Karen Wright. None of it was true, however whilst Karen might have believed the name, might not have known about Angola, she knew that the last was never the case. Nothing wrong with not being married, but pretending to be married, to the electorate and the party isn’t honest either.

    All parties are vulnerable to this sort of “identity fraud.”

  • Herbert Brown 16th Jul '09 - 12:59am

    tim leunig
    “More seriously, why did the LD statement mention Karen’s relationship problems? I have no idea what they are or were, but I think she deserves a bit of privacy here. That is negative campaigning at its worst on our part, and someone somewhere should be told that behaviour like that is unacceptable.”

    I think “Jackie Pearcey” has proved Shakespeare right yet again – “the worst is not / So long as we can say ‘This is the worst.'”

  • Matthew Huntbach 16th Jul '09 - 10:00am

    Jackie Pearcey

    Two people have defected giving their reasons the failure to put up a candidate in a by-election, and yet they are the very two people (the PPC and the ex-leader on the Council) who would have been expected to ensure that there was one!

    Actually, no. This illustrates a point I was making somewhere else recently – we often expect too much of our PPCs and this serves to put people off taking on the role. In particular, we seem to suppose PPCs should take on a big chunk of general local party organisation as well as being the national politics lead spokesperson, which is what the role ought to be about. If you are expecting a PPC to do behind-the-scenes tasks like identifying and pushing forward suitable local election candidates, you are asking for something which really isn’t part of the PPC role.

    It isn’t uncommon for local associations to look for PPCs who they actually want to be general organisers as well. That’s their right if they want, but if it becomes part of party culture that every PPC should do the PPC job alongside being a general organiser, it will put off a lot of people who simply can’t commit that amount of time, particularly people who have a busy professional job outside politics.

    Similarly, if we expect someone who has taken a leadership role in the council also to take on an extensive local party organisation role, we are asking too much.

    Sure, some people are in the fortunate position to be able to take on several roles in the party simultaneously. Our party has prospered because if the huge amounts of unpaid voluntary work many have put into it. But if we make it an essential condition of holding one role that people should also take on others, we are erecting barriers to involvement, and we are also pushing people to burn out – a very common phenomenon amongst our party activists, we have lost too many good people through it.

  • Karen Wright 31st Jul '10 - 7:15pm

    I would happily have responded to this article had I seen it before today. I think I need to clarify a number of points raised by Jackie Pearcey because it seems she does not have all the facts. First of all, my personal circumstances went much deeper than what was published in the media. Yes I put up with a lot secretly and why did I blow the lid on Peter when I did? I did so because what was unreported in the press due to the age of my children at the time, is that he had attacked my daughter when she tried to defend me.

    That is why it came to a head, that is why I had him arrested ,not as suggested by Jackie Pearcey that I had preplanned some huge publicity stunt to destroy the Lib Dems. I can’t believe that someone I once thought of as a friend could even suggest anything so disgusting. Of course she would have known this had she or any of her colleagues bothered to contact me and ask.

    To suggest that they were unable to contact me when I was a local authority Councillor witha public contact number is ludicrous. It didnt stop the national party’s press agent contacting me and congratulating me on the fact that I had handled the press with dignity. It didn’t stop the regional party from writing to me after peter was sentenced and asking me what prison he was in so they could now revoke his membership. It didn’t stop a stockport colleague phoning me after my defection to ask me what the hell was going on.

    Despite all this I held my head up and carried on working, I was unable to carry on campaigning effectively with no way of writing or printing a leaflet and no offers coming from anywhere else but the Lib dems in Tameside made sure they still had Peter doing their leaflets on my printing machine despite what he had done. Not only could I not continue to function in Audenshaw I am now expected to have produced a candidate at the by-election, you’ve got some front Cllr Pearcey.I’ll give you that, let’s see how much front the Lib Dems have and whether they print my response…

    I was not fabricating the lack of organisation I’d had to deal with little or no manpower for years, I’d had enough and decided to join the Labour Party after 14 years of representing a party that couldn’t even offer some support at a time when I had to deal with the worse events of mine and my children’s lives. I still have a lot of respect for some of my old colleagues in the Lib Dems but if people choose to attack me then they can suffer my response I didn’t get where I was by sitting back and taking crap from people who have nothing better to do than judge something they know nothing about….

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