Letter: Principled defector

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The Independent Culture
Sir: You have succumbed to Tory spin when you acknowledge an element of careerism in Shaun Woodward's defection (leading article, 20 December).

Mr Woodward is a talented individual who was sacked from the Opposition front bench for having beliefs diverging from the leadership line. If he had disguised his beliefs to save his job, as many in both parties do, that could have been called careerism. If he had changed his beliefs to accord with New Labour policies, in the expectation that the Labour party will be in government after the next election, that could have been called careerism.

Mr Woodward's past beliefs are on record. The Conservatives fought the last election under the more moderate policies of John Major, whom Mr Woodward supported, and he is correct in his claim that it is the party that has lurched to the right. Despite opinion polls showing the erstwhile leader to be more popular than the party he grappled to lead, it is now those unpopular extremists who are dictating policy.

Of course, resigning his seat and putting his beliefs to the test of the voters would be the more honourable action, but ovine party loyalty in such a safe Conservative seat would be his downfall, and politicians are only human.

Like football hooligans or racist bigots the Conservative leadership cower in the safety of their gang, shouting insults. Perhaps he was expected to wait in the shadows with those lost talents, Heseltine and Clarke, contemplating his sins.

Similarly, he will never be wholly welcomed by Labour Party loyalists, and any major career advancement is unlikely. I admire his integrity.

SEAN WOODS

London SW12

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