‘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

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Nick Clegg and the Prince of Wales' Funeral

Before the 2010 election the Liberal Democrats were generally ignored by the British press.

There was an amusing sign of how much things have changed in the Times Culture magazine on 30 September 2012. An article about the death of Henry Stuart, Prince of Wales, who died in 1612, somehow contrived to mention Nick Clegg in a discussion of the cost of Henry's funeral - even though it was 400 years ago!

Friday, 28 September 2012

UKIP not happy with latest Tory defectors

Two Tory councillors defected to UKIP this week, in the wake of Lord Stevens’ conversion. They were greeted with the warning from UKIP member Andrew Cadman that they

‘risk infecting our party with the kind of chancers and careerists who have ruined the other three big parties’.

Describing his new colleagues as ‘chancers and careerists’ may sound harsh, but history does support Cadman’s view. More defectors leave their old party for better prospects than for any other reason. Defectors, on average, do improve their career prospects, often at the expense of existing loyal members of their new party.  Defectors also tend to be wealthier and better educated than loyalists, not necessarily endearing features in the eyes of their new colleagues.

The pattern of defections carries on, much as it has done for the last century, as charted in Defectors and the Liberal Party 1910-2010.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Sound of Grimond's gunfire at LibDem conference

Nick Clegg in his leader's speech at the LibDem Party conference talked of the party marching towards the sound of gunfire. He was referring to a call by former Liberal leader, Jo Grimond.  Grimond (leader from 1956 to 1967) and his predecessor, Clement Davies (leader from 1945 to 1956) presided over the party in its darkest days, reduced in 1956 to just 5 MPs. Grimond and Davies would have jumped at the chance to lead a party of 57 MPs, in government, however uncomfortable it may be.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Lord Stevens' Defection to UKIP

Political defections are in the news today, with former-Conservative, Lord Stevens, joining UKIP.

Since the 2010 election there has been a trickle of defections of LibDem councillors to Labour – but nothing more serious. Both the LibDems and the Labour Party have been remarkably disciplined during this parliament and have not suffered serious splits or defections. However, the Conservatives - in power and traditionally the most cohesive party - have suffered the most serious outflow of defectors with a steady flow of local councillors defecting to UKIP and now a member of the House of Lords following suit.

My new book on political defections, Defectors and the Liberal Party 1910 to 2010 – A Study of Inter-party Relations, is published by Manchester University Press, giving an overview of a century of defections.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Defectors and Loyalists Data Released

707 people sat as a Liberal or LibDem MP between 1910 and 2010. I have a complete spreadsheet showing who they all were, which constituencies they represented, dates of birth, marriage, divorce, death, wealth at death, age at death, religion, military rank, occupation outside parliament, ministerial office, all elections fought and won or lost, age at first contest and first election and the reason for their departure from the House of Commons as a Liberal MP. All inward and outward defectors are identified. This database underpinned my doctoral thesis and my latest book on political defections. I am making the spreadsheet available to historians, journalists and politicians free of charge. See image on right for very small sample of the charts and database.To request a copy, please email me at aww5 at