General election 2019: Old loyalties fracturing in strange campaign

Laura Kuenssberg
Political editor
@bbclaurakon Twitter

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Image source, PA Media

We knew this was going to be a strange election. It's been a strange few years.

But while the parties are eagerly trying to stick to their familiar scripts - the Tories on Brexit, the Labour Party on public services, something far less recognisable is going on too in this campaign.

It started with Ian Austin last week, the former Labour MP who urged voters to choose Boris Johnson instead. You can read about it here.

Another former Labour MP, John Woodcock, joined him, then today another former Labour minister, Tom Harris, wrote spikily today also urging people to back the Conservatives rather than his old party.

All three of these have switched their support to another party and then overtly made the case for their old rivals.

And it's fully breaking out on the other side too.

David Gauke, who only resigned from the Cabinet a few months ago, has not just decided to stand as an independent candidate after losing the Conservative whip, but has publicly urged voters to take a good look at the Liberal Democrats, saying that a Boris Johnson majority would be bad for the country.

Media caption,
Former Tory minister David Gauke: "A Conservative majority... will take us in the direction of a very hard Brexit"

Mr Gauke is hot on the heels of the former Conservative MP, minister, and Boris Johnson's one time ally at London's City Hall, Nick Boles who slammed Boris Johnson's character.

Of course, in the last few weeks of the Parliament of 2019 there were a fair number of defections to the Liberal Democrats over Brexit.

But it feels different now we are actually in a campaign to have politicians popping up to cheer for a party that is not their own.

It's partly because both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn are politicians who infuriate some members, and former members, of their own political parties.

They both face regular questions about their character, not just their policies.

But it's also because Brexit has created new faultlines in our politics.

The line between Leavers and Remainers is a zigzag, not a reliable party division.

All of the big parties have designed their strategies with this fragmentation in mind.

Whether that is the Lib Dems trying to appeal to Labour voters who want to stay in the EU, or the Tories targeting Labour voters who wanted to leave.

One of the big questions the results on Friday the 13th will answer is the extent to which the old allegiances actually apply.