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Political editor Brian Taylor
"As Mrs Ahmed Sheikh was being paraded by her new party it emerged she had been a Labour Party member"
 real 28k

Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh
"I can no longer associate myself with such a party"
 real 28k

Tory MSP Bill Aitken
"Of course it is not good news for us"
 real 28k

Thursday, 15 June, 2000, 22:10 GMT 23:10 UK
Tory defector held Labour card
Salmond and Ahmed-Sheikh
Standing united: Mr Salmond and Mrs Ahmed-Sheikh
A high-profile Tory who has defected to the Scottish National Party was a member of Labour in the mid-1990s, it has been revealed.

Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh rubbished her Conservative past and criticised the "bovver boy" tactics of leader William Hague when she made a public declaration on Thursday that she was joining the SNP.

"I am not an opportunist, I have changed political parties - so what?

Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh
But it emerged that the mother-of-two held a Labour Party membership card for two years.

Mrs Ahmed-Sheikh admitted she was persuaded to sign up after assisting with the election campaigns of Mohammad Sawar, now Labour MP for Glasgow Govan.

She added: "If you want to concentrate on the past and talk about Labour Party membership and involvement with the Labour Party you are not really looking at what the point of the issue is.

'Too right wing'

"I am not an opportunist, I have changed political parties - so what? I want to work with whoever will deliver for Scotland."

Ms Ahmed-Sheikh, who stood for the Glasgow Govan seat at last year's Scottish Parliamentary Elections, said she could no longer tolerate Mr Hague's "right wing" pronouncements on asylum seekers.

William Hague
William Hague: "Bovver boy" tactics
She also accused the Tories of being "completely out of touch" with public opinion in Scotland and of lacking direction.

Her decision has been viewed as a major blow for the Scottish Tories, coming amid reports of faction fighting ahead of their annual conference in Dundee next week.

It was also seen as a breath of fresh air for the nationalists, amid the continuing war of words between out of favour treasurer Ian Blackford and leader Alex Salmond, and the disciplinary action against MSP Margo MacDonald.

Mrs Ahmed-Sheikh, a qualified solicitor and soap star in her husband's television productions, said: "I would say the main reason for this happening now has been William Hague's move to the right and right wing policies which I never have and do not support.

Election defeat

"His tone on asylum seekers I find extremely worrying and it sounds like it's pandering to right wing prejudices. I can no longer associate myself with such a party."

Mrs Ahmed-Sheikh said she had been a member of the party for "many years" and attacked the Tories, Scottish Liberal Democrats and Scottish Labour for "taking their instructions from south of the border".

She added: "The Conservative Party should be very worried about young people like me deciding that the Tory party is no longer for me."

It now appears she (Ahmed-Sheikh) espouses an agenda of independence which has never been Conservative policy.

Annabel Goldie, Conservative Party
The 29-year-old polled 2,343 votes in the May 1999 vote, behind the SNP's Nicola Sturgeon, who received 9,665 votes and Labour candidate Gordon Jackson who polled 11,421.

In a letter to the Scottish Conservative Leader David McLetchie and copied to Mr Hague, she said the Tories were "stuck in the past".

The significance of the defection was played down by Conservative Party leaders when details of Mrs Ahmed-Sheikh's Labour affiliations came to light.

Annabel Goldie, MSP and deputy leader of the Scottish Conservative party, said: "She was an activist with the Labour Party and then she joined the Conservative Party. It now appears she espouses an agenda of independence which has never been Conservative policy."

Salmond criticism

SNP Leader Alex Salmond hit back by saying the opposition parties' focus on his new recruit's past party membership and past comments were "stuff and nonsense".

He added: "She was presented at the Scottish Parliament Elections last year as the new face of Scottish Conservatism, but as she found the Conservatives had no face to present - there was nothing there.

"I am glad she has joined the party and the fact she belonged to other parties does not matter, that is in the past."

Mr Salmond also glossed over comments Mrs Ahmed-Sheikh made in April last year over his criticisms of the war in Kosovo.

She said he was "hopelessly out of his depth" and she denounced him as "utterly naive".

On Thursday, Mrs Ahmed-Sheikh admitted she had made the remarks but she withdrew when she saw Mr Salmond had clarified what he had said.

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See also:

23 Apr 99 | Parties and Issues
Scottish Conservative Party
17 Mar 00 | Scotland
Ayr defeat 'just mid-term blues'
24 Sep 99 | Scotland
Independence the goal - Salmond
15 Jun 00 | Scotland
Tory defects to SNP
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