Labour candidate deserts 'authoritarian' Blair

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Indy Politics

A Labour Parliamentary candidate announced today that he had defected to the Liberal Democrats.

A Labour Parliamentary candidate announced today that he had defected to the Liberal Democrats.

Stephen Wilkinson, who until yesterday was Labour's candidate for Ribble Valley and a Labour member of Lancashire County Council, said he had become disillusioned with Tony Blair's "increasingly authoritarian" party.

Mr Wilkinson, who will appear alongside Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy at a press conference in Manchester later this morning, announced his defection just hours before Mr Blair was expected to name May 5 as polling day.

In a statement, Mr Wilkinson said: "Until yesterday I was a Labour Party candidate - chosen by Labour to fight the General Election.

"Today, I am announcing that I have left the Labour Party and am joining the Liberal Democrats.

"Like many former Labour voters and activists, I feel angry that Labour have become increasingly authoritarian and failed to safeguard civil liberties.

"They have used the threat of terror to push for house arrest and compulsory ID cards and to justify the illegal war in Iraq.

"Who could have thought that a Labour government would become a lapdog to George Bush's right wing Republican administration?"

He added: "Charles Kennedy's Liberal Democrats come across as honest and straightforward. I believe that Charles Kennedy and the Liberal Democrats offer hope for the future. They are a principled alternative to Labour. The Conservatives are neither principled nor credible."

Mr Kennedy welcomed Mr Wilkinson into the party, saying: "This is the day when the Prime Minister announces a General Election. I am taking the Liberal Democrat message to five great British cities in all corners of the nation. There are now no no-go areas for Liberal Democrats, and polling day will see our party make great strides into urban Britain where we are clearly the alternative to Labour.

"I warmly welcome Stephen Wilkinson and his courage in leaving his party to join the Liberal Democrats. When Labour cannot even retain the support of their own candidates, it is surely a sign of things to come."

Mr Wilkinson will not be a Parliamentary candidate, as the Liberal Democrats had already chosen a candidate for the constituency.