Tory battling in marginal criticised for switching sides

A CONSERVATIVE candidate fighting one of Yorkshire's crucial marginal seats at next month's general election once switched sides and joined Labour while serving as a Tory councillor.

Conservative hopeful Stuart Andrew, who is aiming to win the marginal Pudsey seat from Labour on May 6, has been branded "treacherous" after it emerged he switched back and forth between the rival parties during the late 1990s.

Mr Andrew, who is openly gay, has said his sexuality was proving a "stumbling block" for him within the Tory party at the time. He said last night he simply "did not like the direction" in which the Conservatives were moving after 1997 but that his defection was a "mistake".

The prospective Tory MP had been a Conservative councillor in Wrexham for three years when he quit the party in 1998 to join Labour. Two years later – having lost his seat – he rejoined the Conservatives, moving to Leeds and becoming a city councillor.

Conservative bloggers have now voiced concerns at his selection as the party's candidate for Pudsey, where Labour has a majority of less than 5,000.

One commentator on the ConservativeHome website states: "Stuart Andrew defected to Labour... This was a total disgrace and displayed political treachery of the worst sort – yet now he is back."

And on the UKPollingReport site, Jenny Whitmann, wrote: "I just find it totally staggering. How can anyone switch from being a Tory councillor to a Labour councillor then back? "

Last night Mr Andrew said: "After the 1997 general election I was not happy with the direction of the party and found it very difficult to support some of the stances they had taken," he said. "So foolishly – I was only in my 20s – I joined Labour. But I soon realised the philosophy of the Conservatives was where my beliefs lie."