Breaking The Political Taboo: Sarah Brown On Switching Parties.

Crossing the floor is perhaps the most controversial and dramatic move a politician can make. Few do it once they reach the higher echelons of power: and even fewer out of choice. Churchill famously did it, and our own dear leader in Broxtowe, the indomitable Ms Soubry, was also a listed Liberal in the past.

Those who do change allegiance seldom have an easy time of it. That band of people you’ve passionately fought with, campaigned with, worked cheek-to-jowl with become the enemy overnight. The receiving party will question your motives with suspicion. Politics is similar to football to many: to change team is sacrilege.

I first met Sarah Brown in the run up to the 2010 General Election. Not through covering the election, bizarrely, but through a fluke of circumstance where a temp agency placed us both in the same office. The first question she asked me was  about my political allegiance. I kept schtum: I’m not and never have been a party member and like to think my mind could be swayed right up to picking up the stubby pencil on polling day.

Not so Sarah; she was a firebrand, passionate Labour. A rosette adorned her red top, a condemnation of Cameron never far from the lips. We became friends, meeting David Miliband and Diane Abbot at various meetings, and I interviewed her when she stood for Awsworth in the Borough elections in 2011. As late as this May she was out campaigning for the County elections, pounding the streets of Nuthall for hours at a time.

Yet I was aware of a growing discontent for some time, so when she eventually moved over to the Lib Dems it was not too much of a surprise. She even gave me the scoop on it, and when the Nottingham Post followed up with it’s own story they quoted Labour Leader Milan Radulovich dismissively claiming ‘”I am a little disappointed she has chosen to do this… as far as we are concerned, her contribution will not be missed.” Meow.

Sarah recently spoke at the Lib dem conference, and her Facebook account became a battleground for days afterwards. I therefore thought I’d give her a space to get her side of the story down, and she took me up on the offer. Please send your comments over, and Sarah will respond in time.  Over to Ms Brown:

The other day I was asked by the lovely Lord Beestonia to tell the good people of Broxtowe what it is to change parties.
So I’m Sarah Brown. Late 2009 I joined the Labour Party. They were in the depths of their unpopularity. In the run up to the general election. *that* general election the one where the general public decided “meh we don’t want anyone to win”. It was a really exciting time just after the election not knowing *quite* what would happen.  Then it came to pass that the Liberal Democrats went into a coalition with the Tories. “Boo Hiss” went the country – this isn’t what we asked for. But you know, the Lib Dems did what they had to do – for a more stable government and to make more of their policies a reality. Labour didn’t take the coalition talks seriously, whereas the Tories did and the rest as they say was history. I did a lot while I was as a Labour Party member. I canvassed, I designed leaflets, I delivered leaflets, I stood for election and I spoke at conferences not once but twice (here are my speeches if that interests you http://youtu.be/xyOcUQJbTwo and http://youtu.be/Vaf0fu4wx8I) and yeah I wore a lot of red.

So when your benign dictator got wind of me not entirely being happy in the Labour Party it probably came as a bit of a surprise to him. It’s probably at this point I should declare an interest – Matt and I worked together for a few months. I remember my suspicion when I found out he lived in Broxtowe. I remember looking him square in the eyes and the words “are you a Tory?!” Came out of my mouth. A slightly terrified Lord B shook his head and assured me he wasn’t. Don’t worry fellow Broxtonians, I don’t usually canvass by scaring someone half to death… Usually. 😉

I’m not going to bore you with the minutiae of saying which policy I did or didn’t agree with in the Labour Party or what particular Liberal Democrat policy swayed my decision. It just became clear it was the right thing to do. I found myself rolling my eyes every time Ed Miliband announced something and ever more thinking #iagreewithNick (Clegg not Palmer -obvs). Infact Broxtonians, I have a confession to make. I used to live in Sheffield when I went to University around the time of the general election in 2005 and I voted for Nick Clegg. I remember stopping up all night to watch the results. When I joined labour it all became a dirty little secret. I voted for Clegg – who at that time was slightly less popular than the anti-Christ at the time.

So I moved parties earlier this year. It was reported on this blog, and in the Nottingham Post (slow news day??!) and on the East Midlands LIberal Democrats website – I was slightly surprised the TV crews didn’t rock up at my house! Changing was a tough choice to make, so much so that it took me about 6 months to actually push the button and do it. I suppose I should tell you who finally got me to do it, there were a few, my friend Alisdair a Lib Dem from the city and long time drinking buddy, Chris Wiggin from Peterborough – a Liberal Democrat who would take me for pizza when were both down in London, and your friendly local councillors David Watts and Steve Carr. I suppose it took me a while as I had to be sure that I was making the right move – and I still have no regrets. So since I have joined the liberal democrats I have had a lot of abuse, but also a lot of support. I’m proud to be on the same side as excellent people like Steve and David. They work really hard for you Broxtowe, and they are good people. But what changes? The electioneering stays the same, I go to conference, I even speak there (my speech is here if you it interests you: http://youtu.be/1KKTUveKX54) and yeah I wear a lot of red (ok so my wardrobe hasn’t *quite* caught up yet).

 Sarah Brown, Lib Dem.
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29 thoughts on “Breaking The Political Taboo: Sarah Brown On Switching Parties.

  1. Nick Palmer says:

    I don’t think anyone should have any problem with this. Everyone evolves over time and normal people don’t see anything odd about it, but political people agonise and think it’s a huge deal. Sarah and I had a hug when I was representing my NGO at the LibDem conference, and I hope she enjoys her time with them, and maybe comes back to us in the future. Similarly I’ve had LibDems and Greens and even Tories voting for me at elections, and never tried to gloat over it. We’re all free agents in the end and have a right to choose as we think best.

  2. Simon Cross says:

    I suppose Sarah’s story tells us something about the modern nature of poltiical affiliation; some folk pick it off the supermarket shelf and then discard it when its ‘done’. Sarah’s experience shopping around’ for the best political deal (Nick Clegg – you gotta be kidding!) is revealing for her lack of basic committment to socialist ideas and ideals, which one would think might have stopped her from joining the Lib Dems (and which the evidence suggests she never really had). For Sarah to be ‘happy clappy’ about still wearing red (yes, for folk like Sarah it is all about surface appearance) but give no mention to the Lib Dem’s current role in dismantling, say, the NHS, says something about how weak is her political antennae. Still, the fun she had at conference was worth it… . I wonder if Sarah will entertain us again with her political promiscuity when she joins the Tories and, perhaps, UKIP.

    • Joan says:

      When I started reading this I was expecting to find reference to at least one principle or policy that might have been significant in the decision to change party allegiance.

    • Harry says:

      What Simon said. I can’t fathom what would draw someone to New Labour after the Blair/Brown years, then decide that it was the Lib Dems that captured their political ideologies best, then would still hold that opinion in 2013. Beyond naked love of power of course. So it would have been nice to have heard how that thought process ran.

    • UKIP haha. Never going to happen. I am happy now where I am.

      • You already have the coat for UKIP, and I am sure we would be glad of an ex-Labour activist, as the only party for the working class now (see Emily Thornberry’s contempt for our white-van men).
        We’re targeting the LibDems hard, to get all those disaffected votes, and none for Labour. Hopefully wiping you off the map. We could certainly do with extra strategists to grow regionally.
        I’d been unhappy with Broxtowe CLP (Clique Labour Party) for a while, and especially the Regional dictator. Although there are a few gems left, they’re all considering other parties. I’d been in Labour for 30 years, through all the hard-times, but it was only when I decided it was time to chance my luck at a Parliamentary Level / winnable District Level, did all the local bitching start on me. Maybe if I hadn’t moved to Broxtowe I would still be happy. Sadly about a 3rd of safe/winnable CLPs are now like this. Labour stands for nothing other than getting those at the top elected. No chance for grassroots members. You must be a 20-30 law student. I didn’t like what I saw, mostly from the older generation, who were uber-loyal to Nick Palmer (someone who’s a false and lazy manipulator IMHO). Middle-agers inbetween are even kicked out standing for local government, what a joke – given I’ve shoved leaflets through doors for 30 years. Labour is just two-faced and not worth the bother any more – flipping policy to suit the wind.

      • And when you look at Derby places like Chaddeston falling, you have to think how safe is Labour in Stapleford… local councillors you never see, even if your house is being squashed… Labour simply no longer care…

      • And as for Milan’s comments… he’s never at GC, and probably the electorate won’t miss him either after 2015

  3. […] I’m in a relatively unique position having been able to attend and take part in two different party political conferences. For the last two years, I attended and spoke at Labour Conference. In May of this year, I joined the Liberal Democrats. You can read more about that here. […]

  4. Caracatus says:

    It is always funny that politicians who spend their time trying to get people to swtch votes form one party to another get very upset when someone does indeed switch. Welcome to the Lib Dems, of course you don’t have to agree with everything the party says or does – if you did you’d ought to be worried.

  5. David says:

    Whilst admiring the courage of those who choose to leave one party and join another, I do wonder what the motivation is to want to join a political party in the first place. Never having felt a strong need to join a political party (on this I am Marxist – Groucho not Karl), my voting pattern has typically been based on the coincidence between my own political views, and the policies of a Political Party, reinforced by the quality of the local candidate (see Nick Palmer).
    So if an individual feels so strong in their conviction that they need to join a political party, I would question the conviction to then switch to a second party. However I also suspect that if for example I had joined the Labour Party in 1996, by the time of the Iraq War, I would have retreated back to the wilderness of the non-party members (but not joined another party). I have no doubt in Sarah’s sincerity, unlike some other recent examples (Shaun Woodward?).
    It is worth noting the membership of the main UK political parties has been declining for decades (http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN05125).
    To paraphrase Lady Bracknell “To join one political party, may be regarded as a misfortune. To join two looks like carelessness”

  6. Chris says:

    While I wish Sarah good fortune with the Lib Dems there is a bad taste left in the mouth for the way in which she left the party. Back in late July last year Sarah was a nominee for the county elections and stood a very good chance of being selected in the North however on the night of the selection she withdrew with a long winded speech about how she felt unsupported. I believe that if she had held her tongue for an hour more she would have been a nominee and had the backing of the party. Fast-forward 10 months and she was out in Nuthall (no Lib Dem candidate unlike Kimberley down the road) the night before the elections, knocking on doors with the Labour candidate.

    The day after the elections she made the switch. I can’t help but feeling that for at least some of the 10 month period she was passing information to the Lib Dems. The timing would suggest that she did not have an immediate ideological twinge during the count and that for some time she was effectively a double agent even if she had not joined the Lib Dems at that point. Personally, if I had an ideological change or the party did something that forced me to leave, I would leave immediately. I wouldn’t stick around for almost a year.

    On another topic, what are the Lib Dem rules for standing as a candidate? Do they have a minimum period of membership before you can be eligible?

    • Double agent? Spy?! LOL you are funny. I moved when I wanted to. I helped out a friend then left when I had helped her.

      No idea about lengths of membership. Not something that concerns me at the moment.

    • Steve Carr says:

      None if your concern let alone business Chris. You worry about Labour.

  7. […] she has written an excellent piece on her reasons why for the Beestonia Blog. You can read it here: https://beestonia.wordpress.com/2013/09/25/breaking-the-political-taboo-sarah-brown-on-switching-part…. You can see Sarah speaking at the Lib-Dem conference earlier this month here: […]

  8. […] she has written an excellent piece on her reasons why for the Beestonia Blog. You can read it here: https://beestonia.wordpress.com/2013/09/25/breaking-the-political-taboo-sarah-brown-on-switching-part…. You can see Sarah speaking at the Lib-Dem conference earlier this month here: […]

  9. N Humphrey says:

    “Sarah Brown who”, I said. If you can’t remember what someone looks like, against their name, they aren’t that important. Her defection has everything to do with Broxtowe not being an All Women Shortlist – and hence Nick Palmer not automatically barred. So no space for Sarah. I haven’t a lot of party friends since 2010, because I have consistently opposed the Nick Re-Selection Machine – most notably “Nick’s News” (an unelected position by the Executive Committee); and his subsequent abuse of it in Party Selection. Anyone who thinks about leaving is just taking the easy route. You are in a party for its stance. That hasn’t changed. Broxtowe is currently a Nick Palmer groomed blip, it isn’t Left or Rights, its a “One Man Band with Musical Differences”. it will return to normality.I think there are much better candidates than Nick, as he tole me he ran his ’97 campaign from 1000 miles away. (He then lived in Broxtowe, lost in 2010 and moved after showing no loyalty, and now lives in Sussex; so hopefully will return). Anyone who can’t commit in a marginal is lazy. However, he is out once a month, with under 2 years to go. I am Labour canvassing weekly in 3 marginals but all of them (including Nick) are way better than Sarah, or a mediocre MP like Anna, who rarely replies or reads her emails. For one, Sarah is too young and hasn’t enough life experience; and she’s no casework experience of helping others in dire-straits. Nick will always reply, even at 3am, but actually does nothing but sympathy, did nothing for my internationally abducted children, so his casework skills are rubbish. This time I hope they are not farmed out to staffed party hacks, but to several experienced future potential candidates including lawyers, who already do casework. On the plus side, Nick has an army of aging members loyal to him. He’s been an MP before, but his wife will be back in the trough to milk some more expenses; so some promises on staffing household would be good.

    • Ageist much? Critisize palmers “aging” supporters and then call me too young. I suppose you are the perfect age to be an MP. And I object to the life experience comments. One of the best councillors in the country was elected weeks after his 18th birthday his constituents think he is awesome.

  10. […] the Beestonia blog about my crossing of the political floor (you can read it if that interests you here […]

  11. David Watts says:

    Good grief, there is some real rubbish being written on here. It’s really disappointing that some people have to resort to abuse and to criticise anyone for being too young is incredibly patronising (and then to criticise Nick Palmers supporters in the same message for being too old does rather take the biscuit.

    As for the comment accusing Sarah of spying for the Lib-Dems when she was in Labour – there is no truth in that whatsoever. She is a person of far too much integrity to have done that.

  12. Steve Carr says:

    I hope the person accusing Sarah of spying can prove that or it might be liable.

    • Chris says:

      Is this the default response to criticism? Vague threats of legal action for me pointing out that the timing of the decision was slightly suspect and saying that I had a “feeling” there was something more to it.

      Furthermore, I feel that I have a right to comment on any article that anyone posts anywhere on the internet. You certainly have no right to tell me what is or isn’t my business. Your MO is starting to look like that of Soubry with your poor attempts at shutting down a discussion that you are uncomfortable with.

      Don’t worry about Labour, we know what we are doing for 2015 and we are planning to win.

      I will also say to Sarah and anyone else, ignore what Mr Humphrey’s has to say as entertaining as his conspiracy theories are. Everyone has to start somewhere, no matter what their age. What matters is not your history of casework but what you do once you are in a position. Just because someone is inexperienced doesn’t mean that they are unable to help people.

    • Jim Dunn says:

      Well, well Steve – this exchange thread has certainly prodded your bad tooth – what tetchy responses they are!!! I thought that the Lid Dems prided themselves on their calm, balanced and liberal attitudes to life the universe and criticism.

  13. Peter Kobryn says:

    Go on tell us again how happy you are….oh and add that smiley face emoticon again….

  14. […] most fun criticism lately (look at the comments on on this article) was someone who thought that I was a spy/double agent for the lib dems. I mean come now. […]

  15. […] interesting. The Lib Dems did have one filip with Labour activist and committed trade unionist Sarah Brown crossing over to them . Nick Palmer was selected to fight the 2015 General Election for Labour, and Soubry committed […]

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