Conservative peer defects to take seat on Labour benches

ANOTHER LEADING Conservative crosses the floor of Parliament to join Tony Blair's Labour Party today.

Lord Hacking, who has been a Tory hereditary peer since 1971, says in a letter to The Independent today that his move has been prompted by changes in Conservative and Labour policies on penal affairs and Europe.

"The choice is party or policy," Lord Hacking, 60, says in a moving letter that will strike a chord with many Conservatives. "Difficult though it is, I believe the only honest choice is one of policy."

With the Prime Minister opening the final summit of his European presidency in Cardiff today, the latest Tory scalp will come as welcome evidence of Labour's positive attitude towards the European Union - and William Hague's steady drift into Euro-scepticism.

Lord Hacking, a partner in the London law firm Sonnenscheins, says that since the Tories lost office last year, they have been turning away from established policy towards the EU.

"It was my party who negotiated our entry into the EEC. It was my party who negotiated and signed the Single European Act in which we expressly agreed the convergence policies for bringing into being the single currency. It was my party who negotiated and signed the Maastricht treaty in which we expressly agreed the establishment of economic and monetary union, including the single currency ..."

Now, he says, Mr Hague talks of a single currency as "the economic equivalent of a burning building with no exits". Far from seeking to be at the heart of Europe, he adds, "we are now seeking to be apart from it".

Lord Hacking has similar disquiet about the direction of Tory policy on law and order. "Much has changed in the Conservative Party - as it has in the Labour Party - during my adult life," he says. "Recent changes in my party have not been to the good. At the end of its period of office, just over a year ago, we had a Conservative government which was standing on its head its own established penal policy. Claims by the then Home Secretary that `prison works' and the introduction of measures which imposed mandatory sentencing on the judiciary were populist and unworthy."

Examining the dilemma faced by all politicians in such circumstances, Lord Hacking says he can either stay with the Tories and try to work for a restoration of old commitments, or join Labour, already committed to a strong but compassionate penal policy and a determination to make the EU work from within.

"On Monday," he says, "I will be `crossing over' the floor of the Chamber of the House of Lords from the Conservative benches to the Labour benches."

As with all those who have made the same move in recent years, Lord Hacking says he leaves in sorrow. Having belonged to the Conservative Party for the past 40 years, he will be leaving friends behind. "I realise I will be causing upset," he says. But the growing frequency of the act measures the change in both parties.

Letters, Review, page 2

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future