The Lord Adonis is one of the few politicians in recent British history to have tergiversated twice in his career. He started life as an SDP councillor on Oxford City Council and then joined the newly formed Liberal Democrats, I believe even going so far as to win the Party’s nomination as prospective parliamentary candidate for Westbury in the mid-1990s. However, before the 1997 election, he had left the Party and eventually became a Labour supporter and took the Labour Whip when appointed a peer. Now he has it has been reported resigned from that Party to take up an appointment under the Conservative government.
I first met Lord Adonis in the 1980s when I was chairman of the Costwold Line Promotion Group that was campaigning initially to save and then to improve the line between Oxford and Worcester – he was already interested in railways at that time. Incidentally, that was ten years after I met Jeremy Corbyn in Hornsey during the two 1974 general elections where I was the agent for the Liberal candidate and he was part of Labour’s election team in Hornsey.
After Oxford, Lord Adonis went on to be the Education correspondent at the Financial Times for several years and I recall feeding him stories about data on education issues such as pupil teacher ratios and the cuts to music services under the Thatcher government.
Lord Adonis is a very able man with concerns about issues such as transport and education that he is able to articulate effectively. He has a concern for those the system doesn’t protect; hence his early support for academies after he spent a period while in Oxford as a governor of a secondary school in Blackbird Leys, the estate in south Oxford located in a part of the city where there is significant deprivation.
As someone who has remained a Liberal for more than 50 years, despite two periods of political neutrality during my career, once as a civil servant and the other as vice-chairman of a national charity, I would never have surrendered my basic beliefs and, despite differences with my Party at times, would never have wanted to leave it.
No doubt some journalist or other will ask Lord Adonis how he has been able to reconcile a political life with adherence to three different political ideologies, assuming he now accepts the basic direction of travel of the Conservative government in taking on his new job. If he doesn’t, then he should make clear the grounds on which he has accepted the post.
I cannot also help but wonder if there are some Conservative Party members that will feel just a tiny bit put out at the appointment of Lord Adonis. The message to them being, even if you work hard for the Party, we will take the best person even if traditionally they have been part of the opposition to our values.
One wonders if this act of tergiversation will be the first of many in a re-alignment of political opinion in England or just a rare footnote in British political history and the career of one individual?