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Last Updated: Friday, 29 December 2006, 20:51 GMT
Lib Dem trio become Conservatives
Richard Porter
Richard Porter is among three Lib Dem candidates to switch
Three Liberal Democrats who stood at last year's general election have joined the Conservative Party.

Richard Porter, who fought Camberwell and Peckham, and John Barstow, who stood at Tonbridge and Malling, have switched parties.

Tariq Mahmood, a physician who contested Uxbridge, also moved, saying the Tories "could make the NHS better".

Tory party chairman Francis Maude said the trio's move marked "a tremendous end to a great year for the party".

He said it showed that under David Cameron the Conservatives "have come a long way in a short time".

The Liberal Democrats played down the defections, however, pointing to the party's performances in by-elections as proof of their progress.

Liberal Democrat chief of staff Edward Davey said: "When it came to real votes in real ballot boxes in 2006, it was the Liberal Democrats who fared the best.

"In the three parliamentary by-elections fought in 2006, Liberal Democrats saw an 11% average rise, whilst the Tory vote share fell 4%."

'Bland and formulaic'

Mr Porter is a gay rights campaigner who wrote the Liberal Democrat manifesto for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in the 2005 general election.

He described Lib Dem leader Menzies Campbell as a "has-been" who had put the party "in reverse gear".

He said his personal beliefs were no longer best represented by the Lib Dems, but by the Conservatives.

John Barstow, a union steward, said his former party were "bland, formulaic and out of touch with real life".

Earlier this year three other Liberal Democrat general election candidates defected to the Tories.

They were Adrian Childs in West Suffolk; Jeff Clarke, in Wirral West; and Rene Kinsett in Swansea West, plus the former Labour candidate for Horsham, Rehman Chishti.

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