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20 September 2010

The Lib Dem MP most likely to defect to Labour

Why Mike Hancock is the man to watch.

By George Eaton

Forget Charles Kennedy: if you’re looking for a potential Lib Dem defector, Mike Hancock is your man. In a letter to Nick Clegg, Hancock has attacked “the dictatorship” of ministers over the party and hit out at the coalition’s welfare cuts.

He’s followed this up with a BBC interview, in which he warns that he’s “straining at the straps” in his relationship with the party and hints that defeat in the AV referendum could provide the tipping point.

“I will make a determined effort to win that vote but if we lose, and there’s little or no chance of repeating it, then I will be very, very concerned about where the coalition goes from there,” Hancock said. As a former Labour and SDP man, he wouldn’t have too much trouble crossing the floor.

But don’t expect to see him speaking out against free schools in the debate this morning — he hasn’t even turned up at conference this year. You get the feeling he won’t be there next year either.

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UPDATE: In the letter, Hancock suggests that he’s unlikely to defect, pointing out: “If Dennis Skinner can remain a member of Labour throughout the past 20 years of New Labour, I as a founding member of the SDP with over 25 years’ membership of the Lib Dems can certainly remain a member of the Lib Dems.” But he doesn’t completely rule it out.