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.