‘Honoured that you are writing my father’s biography’ the late Tony Benn, ‘...wonderfully written’ Hilary Benn

‘Sparkles with fascinating detail…a remarkable story of Liberal and Labour politics in the first half of the twentieth century.’ Michael Crick, Political Correspondent, Channel 4 News

‘Casts much light both on the evolution of British radicalism, and on the legacy which he bequeathed to his son, Tony. Professor Vernon Bogdanor, King's College, London

‘Brilliant biography…wonderful reading about the father and...discovering more about the son.’ Steve Richards of The Independent

‘Well-written and carefully researched, this fascinating biography brings to life a major figure in British political history…an excellent job of weaving together the strands of a complex life…as well as filling in the background of the Benn family’ Richard Doherty, military historian

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Paddy Ashdown: ‘Toffs’ most likely to defect

Former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown claimed that an inward defector was the next best thing to a by-election victory – he achieved some of each for the party. He also had a theory that among potential defectors, the Toffs were the most likely to take the plunge and change parties. 

My study of more than a hundred defections - in and out of the Liberals and Liberal Democrats - over the course of a century up to 2010, finds that Paddy Ashdown’s theory can be statistically proven to be correct. On average defectors were from more privileged backgrounds than loyalists. Defectors were wealthier than loyalists. Former senior army officers were also more likely to defect than junior officers and they in turn were more likely to defect than those without military service. 

The spreadsheet of all the data on which the calculations are based is available free of charge - see sidebar. My book detailing the whole study, Defectors and the Liberal Party 1910 to 2010 – a study of interparty relations, is published by Manchester University Press with a foreword by Lord Andrew Adonis. Andrew's own fascinating book Education, Education, Education, has also recently appeared. It is published by Biteback, the publishing house founded by Iain Dale. (Iain published my Clement Davies biography under his previous imprint, Politico's). Paddy Ashdown’s Diaries, published by Penguin, give some fascinating insights into how to spot and reel in defectors.

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