Labour gain as senior local Lib Dem defects

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Two Lancaster University students serving as Labour Party Councillors on Lancaster City Council have welcomed the defection of the Liberal Democrat former council leader to their party.

Stuart Langhorn, who was the Lib Dem candidate for Lancaster and Fleetwood in the 2010 general election and was council leader when he lost his Lower Lune Valley seat in May 2011’s local elections, has joined the Lancaster and Fleetwood Labour Party.

Langhorn cited his former party’s failure to stand up to the Conservative Party on issues including education, health and the economy since the Coalition Government has been in power.

“The Lib Dem leadership has lost touch with ordinary people and their communities,” Langhorn told the Lancaster Guardian.

Given the high student population of Lancaster, the news is seen as part of a trend representing disaffection with a party who previously championed students’ values.

Labour Councillor Jonathan Dixon said that the news is “a great gain for the local Labour Party and we have welcomed Stuart to the group with gratitude.

“As is evident, sometimes political parties can go over the edge and as Stuart sees it, forget the fundamentals of what their political party believe in, which is undeniable from many Lib Dem members across the country defecting to Labour or other political groups.”

Dixon looked back to the Liberal Democrat’s general election promises to fight against rises in university tuition fees, saying that “From a University perspective students will continue to distrust the Lib Dems as the promises they made in 2010 were too large to just turn your head to and pretend it is something minor and then go off to decide a 300% increase is ‘ok’ as an alternative.”

Councillor Paul Aitchson also added that Langhorn’s defection “seems to be indicative of what’s happening to the Lib Dems nationally. There has been massive desertion by its members in the last two years.”

Aitchson argued that “In terms of the student factor, the result in last year’s election (University ward) represents how they no longer trust the party. They lost almost half their votes since 2007 in the ward whilst Labour votes more than trebled.”

Lancaster University Students Union (LUSU) President George Gardiner concurred that Langhorn’s decision was indicative of disillusionment with Lib Dems nationwide.

“I don’t think it would be overly controversial if I said that a lot of students around the country over the last two years have felt very let down by the number of pledges that we made by Liberal Democrat MPs around the country,” he said.

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