Wednesday, September 22, 2010

When the going gets tough, the defectors get going

It is always disappointing to learn of a defection from the Lib Dems just as it is pleasing to learn of defections to us. Alas, I have to give you the disappointing news. Yvonne McNicol, councillor for the neighbouring ward to mine, has jumped ship to sit as a Labour councillor. It's a pity she never at any point raised concerns with us. I had counted her as a friend and as someone who worked incredibly hard to get her elected and re-elected, I am deeply upset she chose not to speak to me about what she was going to do. I learnt of her defection yesterday when the Journal phoned me.

Yvonne is due for re-election next year but this year, Labour won the seat that was up for election in the ward. She was facing an uphill struggle to hold on though I would have done everything possible to ensure she would have won as the defending Lib Dem councillor. Yvonne would have had to work hard to hold on but I have lots of memories of her saying to me that putting out Focus leaflets was often difficult for her in terms of her own time.

I am not going to question her motives but her explanation that she is unhappy with the cuts and the coalition takes some swallowing given she has not raised any concerns with us despite many opportunities to do so.

The claim that she is against government cuts is all the more baffling. She is joining the Labour group that cut millions from Gateshead's services in March, nearly two months before the Coalition was formed. She is also joining a party that closed her local library and post office. Her claim that Coalition policies are damaging Gateshead is remarkable given she is joining a party that increased the wealth divide between rich and poor and doubled unemployment. And suggesting that restoring the pensions link and taking thousands of low paid Gateshead residents out of tax do not strike me as damaging to the borough.

But Yvonne has made her decision. Whatever the motive, she has left us. I am disappointed with that, and given that I have worked so hard in her ward for her, I am quite upset. She asks that her decision be respected. Okay, we will do that but I say to you Yvonne that you must respect you former colleagues who worked so hard to get you where you are now and who you have now left. You have joined a party that I find is often disrespectful to me. I hope you are not going to join in the treatment that I have endured from your new party. Respect, Yvonne, is needed on both sides.

Government is not comfortable, nor should it be. Decisions should be justified. Opposition is comfortable because it does not require you to justify decisions that have been taken. That's not to say that opposition always behaves in such a way, but at the moment, Labour are behaving in a very irresponsible way. After years of great discomfort, Labour have entered the comfort zone of opposition.

I guess a small number of those who join parties of whatever colour in their good times in opposition end up finding the move from the opposition comfort zone to be too uncomfortable. When the going gets tough, the defectors get going - back to the comfort zone.
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