As another Tory MP pledges allegiance to Nigel Farage's party, we look back at some of history's defining political defectionsby Josh Lowe / September 29, 2014 / Leave a comment
As Tory conference began over the weekend, David Cameron was stung by a string of headlines about Mark Reckless, the Tory MP who has followed his colleague Douglas Carswell in defecting to UKIP. With rumours abounding of more departures, and Ukip’s Nigel Farage claiming the party is talking to Labour MPs as well, this could be the start of a mass exodus.
Defections aren’t just exciting because they keep gossip-hungry hacks happy. They can spell death for an established party, spawn a new one, and indicate radical shifts in the political weather. Here, we’ve run through six of the most significant British political defections.
Winston Churchill: Conservative to Liberal, 1904
Churchill switched party three times in his political career: from the Conservatives to the Liberals in 1904, from the Liberals to an independent candidacy in 1922, and back to the Conservatives in 1924. The first of these marked a rejection of the protectionist philosophy popular in conservative politics at the time. His Oldham constituency was an important centre of the cotton-spinning industry, so for obvious reasons many of Churchill’s constituents supported the duties on cheap foreign textiles supported by the Tory party at the time. Churchill defected to the Liberals as a supporter of free trade—as a young man, he was known as a maverick, whom nobody would have bet on as a future PM. When he returned to the Conservative party, though, (as he put it “anyone can rat, but it takes a certain amount of ingenuity to re-rat”) it marked a decisive shift away from the party’s obsession with local issues and back toward national interests.