Adrian Graves defects to the Tories
THE Liberal Democrats received another body blow last night when one of the party's senior activists in East Anglia defected to the Conservatives.Adrian Graves, who has contested West Suffolk at two General Elections and stood for the European Parliament in a London constituency, says the revitalised Tories under David Cameron have altered the shape of British politics.
By Graham Dines
THE Liberal Democrats received another body blow last night when one of the party's senior activists in East Anglia defected to the Conservatives.
Adrian Graves, who has contested West Suffolk at two General Elections and stood for the European Parliament in a London constituency, says the revitalised Tories under David Cameron have altered the shape of British politics.
Coming two weeks after the resignation of Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy's admission that he was an alcoholic and the weekend's downfall of home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten in a rent boys scandal, the last thing the party needed was for a high profile member to join the Tories.
Mr Graves's decision to switch parties will be announced by Conservative Central Office today > when he will be meeting Mr Cameron after Prime Minister's Questions.
After initial discussions with West Suffolk MP Richard Spring before Christmas, he made his decision to join the Conservatives last week and then had a formal meeting with the party's Chairman Francis Maude.
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“I have read some of Mr Cameron's speeches and they reflect the platform I was standing on in West Suffolk last May. The two match,” said Mr Graves.
“His overriding belief that the Conservatives need to change is compelling. My political stance has not shifted, but the Conservative Party has moved back on to the centre ground from which Paddy Ashdown launched the merged Liberal and Social Democrat parties 16 years ago.
“Without having to change my beliefs, I now share a common agenda with the new, modern, compassionate Conservative Party.
“Even the question of Europe does not divide us. I share Mr Cameron's decision to seek a new grouping in the European Parliament to which Tory Euro MPs can join - we can find common cause with parties in Eastern Europe and forge a new alliance to break the French-German domination.”
Mr Graves said: “Another important factor in my decision is that the majority of the British people do not want to face the prospect of a fourth term Labour government. The harsh reality is that Cameron's Conservative Party represents the only practical opportunity to bring about change.”
Nominations close today for the Lib Dems' leadership contest with Sir Menzies Campbell, Simon Hughes and Chris Huhne the declared candidates.
Mr Graves said: “The nightmare scenario for Britain after the next election would be a left wing Labour government propped up by a Liberal Democrats led by left leaning Simon Hughes.
“Moving to the Tories has nothing to do with the Lib Dems' `execution' of Charles Kennedy or the resignation of Mark Oaten, which saddens me. It has everything to do with the future of politics.”
A former journalist, Mr Graves, who is 57 and lives at Great Barton, runs his own public relations consultancy and he is media and communications adviser for the National Association of Bank and |Insurance Customers.
His partner Ann Fossati, who contested the Blackbourn division in elections to Suffolk County Council for the Lib Dems last May, is also switching her allegiance.
Mr Spring said he was “absolutely delighted” that Mr Graves was the first major defector to the Tories since David Cameron took charge of the party.
He added: “Looking at what the Government has done to the county - the health crisis, rising council tax, moving away from local democracy to a regional agenda - it is obvious that only the Conservatives are the real alternative.”
Mr Graves, whose father was Vicar of Haverhill and a canon at St Edmundsbury Cathedral, was Chairman of the town's Young Conservatives in the late 1960s. After moving to London, he drifted out of politics and finally broke with the Tories when Margaret Thatcher sold Leyland to the Dutch company Daf for £1, which drove Fodden Trucks - for whom he was working - out of business.
He joined Ashdown's Lib Dems and in 1994 stood in the European elections for the London South Inner constituency which covered Lambeth, Lewisham, Southwark and part of Greenwich.