It was once known as crossing the Rubicon, when an MP of one party changed sides; named after a short but wide river in Italy. The practice seems to be have been used for political capital, so Shaun Woodward, Brian Sedgemore and now Quentin Davies. Davies published a scathing attack on his now former party leader David Cameron, arguing that:
"Ties of familiarity, of friendship... cannot be the basis for living a lie - for continuing in an organisation when one no longer has respect for its leadership or understanding of its aims... You are the first leader of the Conservative Party who (for different reasons) will not be received either by the President of the United States, or by the Chancellor of Germany... It is fair to say that you have so far made a shambles of your foreign policy, and that would be a great handicap to you - and, more seriously, to the country - if you ever came to power... You regularly (I think on a pre-arranged PR grid or timetable) make apparent policy statements which are then revealed to have no intended content at all. They appear to be made merely to strike a pose, to contribute to an image... Under your leadership the Conservative Party appears to me to have ceased collectively to believe in anything, or to stand for anything... It has no bedrock. It exists on shifting sands. A sense of mission has been replaced by a PR agenda... Although you have many positive qualities you have three, superficiality, unreliability and an apparent lack of any clear convictions, which in my view ought to exclude you from the position of national leadership to which you aspire...".
The letter was released to the press for the benefit of informing constituents. It is no surprise that Mr Davies was given a warm welcome by Labour Chairman Hazel Blears, particularly given his comments about Gordon Brown "a leader I have always greatly admired, who I believe is entirely straightforward, and who has a towering record, and a clear vision for the future of our country which I fully share".
Unofficial reaction is interesting though scant so far. Iain Dale calls him "a disloyal s***" and suggests there are few long term ramifications; many anonymous comments though support Davies' comments. There is nothing on the Conservative website or WebCameron, following their publication of the full speech opinion seems mixed on ConservativeHome with on the one hand 'good riddance' and on the other some sympathy with Davies; his Europhilia is seen as the key negative. The interesting bit on ConservativeHome is the editor's post: "EVERYONE SHOULD BE CAREFUL WHAT THEY WRITE ON THIS THREAD. THE MEDIA WILL BE READING IT. EXTREME COMMENTS BY NAMES I DO NOT RECOGNISE WILL BE DELETED"
Tim Montgomerie is of course correct. Surprisingly Labour's homepage makes little of the event, it is the media that have it as the big splash. Interesting note; Davies has been removed from all Conservative websites and his homepage is down, but the photo with the red rosette above was released immediately though it looks photoshopped to me! I doubt this will have any greater long term effects than Brian Sedgemore did during the last General Election but it may be significant in attaching negative connotations to Cameron of being too image obsessed and a PR man and lacking in substance; something the media may well run with when they decide to balance their reporting and have a be nice to Brown week. If this goes on will anyone bother voting next time?