The phone line, Switch on to Labour, puts faint-hearted deserters in touch with former Tories and Lib-Dems, who will offer confidential advice on how to jump ship with a clear conscience. According to the party's Budget Day freesheet, The Rose, credit for the idea goes to Alan Howarth, MP for Stratford-upon-Avon, who, on the eve of last October's Conservative Party conference, made his own high-profile switch to the Opposition. His pursuit of a safe Labour seat at the next election has so far proved fruitless.
Howarth told The Rose that "many Tory, Lib-Dem and Nationalist voters are finding it easy to switch to Labour. But for active card-carrying members it can be a difficult decision".
Callers are treated to a soothing recorded message in which a softly- spoken Howarth explains his change of heart in terms of New Labour's attachment to "values of opportunity and community", inviting the like-minded to follow his lead and transfer their affections to Tony Blair.
John Maples, spokesperson for the Stratford-upon-Avon Conservative Association, has listened to the message and is unimpressed: "It's just Alan in a rather sugary voice saying that going over to Labour was the most wonderful thing he ever did. I'd be very surprised if anyone rang this - people don't want to discuss the way that they vote with anybody, especially if they're going to change their mind. I think it's just a PR stunt."
You can ring Switch on to Labour on 0171-277 3305.Reuse content