Ex-Tory MP makes Labour his latest stop

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The recent spate of political defections was capped yesterday by the former Tory MP Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler, who announced his conversion to Labour from the Liberal Democrats.

Mr Brocklebank-Fowler was the only Conservative MP to defect to the Social Democrats in 1981, when 25 Labour MPs helped to form the breakaway party grouping.

He subsequently lost his Norfolk North West seat to the Tories in the 1983 general election, who held it on a reduced majority of just over 3,000 votes.

At the last election, he stood as the Liberal Democrat candidate in Norfolk South, which the Tories held with Mr Brocklebank-Fowler trailing more than 17,000 votes behind.

But, having belonged to three parties over the past 15 years, Mr Brocklebank- Fowler yesterday told The Independent that it was time for another move - to Tony Blair's new Labour Party. "Under Tony Blair's leadership, the Labour Party has the vision to implement the reforms necessary to secure a prosperous future, into the millennium, for all our people," he said.

"My decision to join the Labour Party is prompted by Tony Blair's determination to pursue constitutional reform, efficient economic management, and fairer social provision which alone can restore One Nation."

Mr Brocklebank-Fowler was particularly scathing about the Conservatives last night, saying: "Their divisions over Europe and the scandalous behaviour of ministers are too sickening for words. Another Conservative government would be a dreadful blow for democracy."

Having been a parliamentary candidate for 30 years, and having served as an MP for 13 years, Mr Brocklebank-Fowler said he had no wish to stand again, but he would be working for Labour in his old constituency of Norfolk North-West, which had a Tory majority of 11,564 votes over Labour at the last election.

He added: "Labour has got to appeal to the social democratic centre and, under Tony Blair, that is what it is doing."

Why I have joined Labour, page 17