'Blair babe' MP poised to defect to the Conservatives

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A Labour MP is poised to become the first from her party to defect to the Conservatives in almost 30 years. Jane Griffiths, MP for Reading East, has told colleagues that she is ready to cross the floor of the House of Commons.

The MP, a former Blair loyalist, has issued what amounts to an ultimatum: unless the Prime Minister personally asks her to stay, she will join the Tories.

Michael Howard, the Tory leader, has been briefed about her intentions and last night signalled she would be welcomed on the Conservative benches.

A senior Labour backbencher told The Independent on Sunday that he believed it was now "inevitable" that the party would suffer its first defection to the Conservatives since Reg Prentice crossed the floor in 1977. It would be only the second time in history that a Labour MP has defected direct to the Conservatives.

Ms Griffiths was deselected by her local party after a vicious feud with Martin Salter, the Labour MP for Reading West. She remains a Labour MP although her relationship with the whips has become increasingly fraught.

Hilary Armstrong, the Chief Whip, reportedly wants to reprimand her for comments about Mr Salter that she is alleged to have made to a Tory councillor. Ms Griffiths has told a colleague she is now preparing to jump before she is pushed. He said: "I'm disturbed by conversations I have had with Jane following her deselection. She's had enough of the Labour Party.

"The Reading Labour Party has been out of control for the last seven years. She has mentioned her concerns to successive chief whips and chairs of the parliamentary party but they have done nothing.

"She is seriously considering joining the Tories and crossing the floor."