Page last updated at 18:38 GMT, Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Plaid AM defects to Conservatives

ck Bourne with Mohammad Asghar (right)
Mohammad Asghar (right) said he felt 'out of tune' with Plaid Cymru and said he would not resign

Plaid Cymru AM Mohammad Asghar has crossed the floor to join the Conservatives in the Welsh assembly.

The defection was announced by Welsh Conservative leader Nick Bourne and Shadow Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan.

Mr Asghar, the assembly's only ethnic minority AM, said he felt "out of tune" with Plaid policies, in particular its desire for an independent Wales.

Plaid Cymru said his decision was a "shock" and called for him to be "honourable" and resign his seat.

It is the first time an AM has left one party to join another, although others have sat as independents after resigning or being expelled from their own parties.

Mr Asghar was elected as a regional AM for South Wales East in 2007.

'Out of tune'

Joined by the Conservative group at a news conference, he said he had "felt out of tune with the views and policies of Plaid Cymru" and "believed in the royal family and one United Kingdom".

"My politics are very much in line with wanting a stronger Wales within a successful United Kingdom," he said.

"I believe that the Welsh Conservative Party in the national assembly, led by Nick Bourne, reflects my beliefs.

"I am also attracted by the caring Conservatism and policies for change put forward by David Cameron and the Conservative Party at Westminster.

"I very much look forward to playing an important role in the shadow team in the national assembly and to helping to shape the policies for the Assembly elections in 2011," said Mr Asghar.

Asked why he had stood for Plaid Cymru when he was opposed to independence for Wales, he said his voice had been that of "a little parrot in a jungle", with little chance of changing Plaid's stance on the issue.

'Commands respect'

Mr Asghar later took his seat with Conservative AMs in the Senedd, sitting directly behind Mr Bourne.

Mr Bourne said he was "absolutely delighted to welcome Oscar and Natasha (his daughter and former Plaid assembly and European election candidate) to the Conservative Party".

"He is a man who commands respect within the assembly and the communities of South Wales East," Mr Bourne said.

"Today's decision is another sign that only the Conservative Party, under David Cameron's leadership, can bring about the change Wales and Britain needs."

Reacting to the defection, Plaid Cymru leader Ieuan Wyn Jones said: "We very much regret Mohammad Asghar's decision and it comes as a shock to members both of the Plaid Cymru group and the wider party.

"We were particularly surprised to hear of this news from the media.

"We were very proud of the fact that in campaigning hard for Mohammad Asghar's election in 2007 that Plaid Cymru ensured the first ever assembly member from the black minority ethnic community.

"It is has come as a shock that he has now decided that he shares the same values as those held by the Conservative and Unionist party."

'Political mandate'

Plaid Cymru assembly group chair Dai Lloyd said it would be wrong for Mr Asghar to remain in the assembly as a Conservative.

"We now call on Mohammad Asghar to take the honourable decision to resign his seat as a Plaid Cymru AM," Mr Lloyd said.

"The people of the South Wales (East) region did not want a second Tory AM to represent the area - they elected a Plaid Cymru AM.

"Mr Asghar does not have the political mandate to sit in the assembly as a Conservative member..."

But Mr Ashgar said he would not resign.

"It's my prerogative, I want to stay and serve my communities," he said.

"People voted for my picture too [as well as for Plaid Cymru]"

Mr Asghar stood for Plaid Cymru in previous elections, including the 2005 general election, was a Plaid regional co-ordinator and a member of the party's National Executive Committee.

Born in Peshawar, now in Pakistan, in 1945, Mr Asghar lives in Newport.

First ethnic minority AM elected
04 May 07 |  Wales

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