(Will be adding links and illustrations on this one tomorrow)
Twelve hours after news broke of MEP Sajjad Karim's defection from the Lib Dems to the Tories one or two of Saj's Facebook friends had shipped out. About twenty or thirty of them in all in fact. He was then down to 106.
W Menzies Campbell was among the first to go and left characteristically,
without making a sound.
Treasury Mimicster Julia Goldsworthy left even more sharply and could not resist a very catty public remark:
"Very disappointed to see you defect Saj. Wonder if it had anything to do with the fact that you didn't make it to the top of the Euro list. Shame Today* didn't ask that question ..."(*i.e. the Today programme)
Goldsworthy was referring to the fact that Sajjad Karim had lost out to
the controversial Chris Davies MEP in the North West Lib Dems ranking exercise.
This has become the favoured way to spin the thing among the Lib Dems. Davies got more than 60%, Karim under 25%, and the also rans shared scarcely 15% between them.
As second in the LD list and ninth of nine last time, albeit not too far behind the Tory in eighth; and with the number of NW MEP seats dropping to eight in 2008 - Sajjad simply didn't fancy his chances. Says the Lib Dem spin.
Another Tory MEP was retiring, potentially offering a safer slot. Although the calculations may be quite different with UKIP and BNP fading - potentially in the context of a combined General and European Election in June 2009.
But naturally this whole business is not as simple as Lib Dem commentators are trying to make it. Mr Karim had been badly affected by a Lib Dem ruling that recent party
recruits could not vote whereas for the Leadership election they have been allowed to vote, and in normal selections they can often even join on the door of the selection meeting.
If the proportions I've been given (as mentioned above) are correct Sajjad would have needed two thousand new "friends and family" members to bring the ranking poll round his way. But although this would be a huge uplift in membership - converting strong supporters to card carrying members - it would be nothing compared to the recruitment of votes that Sajjad Karim had been responsible for in 2004.
What's largely, nay completely missing from the comments at Lib Dem Voice and elsewhere among the Lib Dem bloggerati is any appreciation whatsoever of the ruthless communalism with which Sajjad Karim was boosted by Chris Davies and your party machine. Absolutely transparent and absolutely unacceptable.
On the question of recruiting to assist in selection and re-selection this is of course something that goes on in all parties to some extent. "Hilariously" there were people 'phone canvassed in Bethnal Green and Bow's Labour selection - AFTER almost half the members had been removed from the list - and they scarcely understood that they were party members.
But at least Labour have generally had a qualification period of 12 or (now) six months for voting in selections. We did vary that for the Deputy Leadership contest in the hope of recruiting on the back of it. Which worked to an extent. Lib Dems have done this to an extent for their leadership contest I believe?
Anyway, despite all the protesting too much over at Lib Dem Voice and elsewhere, there was a recent example of Lib Dems doing the last minute recruitment of friends and family in Manchester.
This was in the ousting of the long term councillor Simon Wheale to make way for ex-councillor Mark Clayton who had been tonked in the eponymous Clayton Ward in the all out in 2004. He is actually on the NW list we're talking about. With about 30 first preference votes.
A very large number of people joined "on the door" or in the previous 48 hours for that particular selection and they all voted for Clayton. And although Clayton is not Asian or Muslim these recruits were it seems largely if not entirely from such communities. And we're told sponsored in joining by a friend and possibly business associate of the candidate.
Perhaps someone could describe the timetable by which the rule on length of membership was introduced in this case? Perhaps Sajjad Karim could let us know how many members he had recently recruited? And if the decision or ruling was retrospective and a change from the norm how that could possibly be justified?
TRUE BLUE: Sajjad's dad was a former Pendle councillor - for the Conservatives - and Saj himself was an active Young Conservative before opportunistically turning yellow. Now he has opportunistically turned blue again.
BUT BACK to FACEBOOK: who's left among the defector's facebook friends? Other MP friends who have yet to leave include:
Leadership hopeful Chris Huhne, Lembit Opik and David Laws, Willie Rennie, Paul Rowen, Jo Swinson and Sarah Teather, lefty Steve Webb and let us not forget poor Phil Willis who only became facebook friends with Saj on Friday 23 November.
INCIDENTALLY: Sajjad is still one of more than 2000 members of the famous facebook group: Am I the only person who doesn't like David Cameron? SAJJAD'S PROFILE: is still in the public domain.
And although SAJJAD'S EPONYMOUS WEBSITE HAS BEEN CLOSED DOWN for the time being. But his blog is still there.