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Mass Labour defection to Liberal Democrats in Margaret Beckett's constituency

August 25, 2006 11:00 PM

Dozens of Labour Party members in Margaret Beckett's constituency are to defect to the Liberal Democrats today in protest at her handling of the Lebanon crisis. They announced their decision today at the Pakistani Community Centre, Derby.

The defections, which come on the day Tony Blair returns from his holiday in Barbados, include a number of senior figures in Mrs Beckett's Derby South constituency and numerous other Labour members and activists.

Sir Menzies Campbell, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said "The Liberal Democrats were the first and only major party to call for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire. These defections in the Foreign Secretary's own seat are significant. The government's position on the Middle East and Iraq shows just how out of touch it is with many in its party and the majority of the general public."

Mohammed Rawail Peeno, who was Chairman of the city's Arboretum branch Labour Party, said "We could not remain in the Labour Party after their mishandling of the Lebanon crisis. When Margaret Beckett refused to back a ceasefire and instead sided with George Bush it was the breaking point for us. New Labour have abandoned the beliefs that led me and thousands of others to join Labour in the first place. We have now joined the Liberal Democrats, whose policies of respect for international law and good quality public services have support across every community in Britain."

Councillor Lucy Care, Liberal Democrat deputy leader in Derby said "These are people who for years were solid Labour but are now turning to us because they see that on the Lebanon crisis, the Iraq War and the delivery of everyday services it is the Liberal Democrats who are the progressive choice in British politics today. This mass defection in Mrs Beckett's backyard shows that the whole New Labour project and the coalition of support they had is decaying away".