Serial defector quits to return to Labour
Dems dismiss loss of councillor as silly distraction
From left: Glenda Jackson, London Mayor Ken Livingstone,Patricia
Hewitt and Jonathan Simpson
TWO-TIME defector Jonathan Simpson has defended his decision
to quit the Liberal Democrats for the Labour Party less than two
weeks before the general election, adding: A vote for the
Lib Dems is a waste of time.
The Fortune Green councillors shock switch was confirmed
on Monday night when he appeared alongside his new Labour colleagues
at the partys private annual meeting.
His appearance a surprise to the majority of Labour councillors
who were not made aware of secret negotiations between Cllr Simpson
and the partys leadership until the last possible moment
followed a stormy phone call to Lib Dem leader Councillor
Flick Rea in which Cllr Simpson revealed his decision.
He said on Tuesday: The election is a straight race between
Labour and the Tories. I would urge voters who might be tempted
to vote for another party to think again. It would be a wasted
vote and the danger is that they will end up with the Conservatives.
Last year Cllr Simpson stood for the Lib Dems in London Assembly
elections and, just six months ago, was due to stand as the partys
candidate against Labours Hampstead and Highgate MP Glenda
Jackson at the general election.
He mysteriously gave up the candidacy in October last year, complaining
that he was overloaded with private work.
Labour are now playing up the defection as a hammer blow to Lib
Dems hopes of making inroads into the 8,000-vote majority
held by Ms Jackson.
They also hope the defection could influence voters in neighbouring
Brent East, where Labour is trying to wrest power back from the
surging Lib Dems.
Press chiefs hauled in figureheads Patricia Hewitt, the Trade
Secretary who lives in Camden Town, and London Mayor Ken Livingstone
as Cllr Simpson was paraded to journalists and photographers at
Kilburn Grange Priory on Tuesday morning. Cllr Simpson, 31, who
first contacted the Labour Party two weeks ago to open talks over
his defection, said the forthcoming election had crystallised
his desire to cross the floor.
It is the second time Cllr Simpson has defected, having left Labour
in 1994 to join the Lib Dems.
He was elected to the council in 2002 in the Lib Dem stronghold
of Fortune Green, scooping 1,111 votes. But he has withdrawn from
council business in recent weeks and did not attend last Mondays
full council meeting.
He said: I have been increasingly disillusioned with the
Lib Dems for some time and that has become more evident since
I was elected as a councillor.
There are many areas where the Lib Dems are floundering.
Their stance on crime and anti-social behaviour is weak, and on
the economy I was very disappointed with their opposition to the
Now a Labour councillor, Cllr Simpson faces the tricky prospect
of forging a civil working relationship out of his newly-strained
relations with Cllr Rea, who also represents Fortune Green.
He said he had not been offered a safe Labour council seat in
next years Town Hall elections, although party organisers
did not rule out a switch to a different ward.
Cllr Simpson said: The first step is joining the party.
I think I was elected as a good local candidate. It is a political
decision. It is not personal.
I am still very fond of the Liberal Democrat councillors.
I know I have caused them upset but I think time will be a great
The Lib Dems were this week trying to put a brave face on the
defection, the second in Camden since Labour came to power nationally.
They lost ex-councillor John Dickie to the Labour Party in the
Members said that in recent months Cllr Simpson had become flaky
and that his decision to give up the Hampstead and Highgate candidacy
Cllr Rea said: It is not grown-up behaviour. Jonathan says
that it isnt personal but the timing in the heat of the
election suggests otherwise. It is so tiring and an irritant.
It is a silly distraction which goes against the trend.
People are leaving Labour to join the Liberal Democrats but perversely
Jonathan has decided to go the other way. I dont think he
has thought it through.
She added: Defectors are never popular. I think he will
regret it. He was out delivering leaflets and writing envelopes
with me 10 days ago.
To soften the blow, Ed Fordham, who was drafted in by head office
to replace Cllr Simpson in the fight against Ms Jackson, pointed
to Hackney MP Brian Sedgemores defection from Labour to
the Lib Dems.
Town Hall Conservative group leader Councillor Piers Wauchope,
who is also contesting next Thursdays poll, said: The
Liberal Democrats have lost one of their two heavyweights on the