THE former leader of Bromsgrove Labour who once ran against Sajid Javid in the 2017 general election has now joined the Conservative group on the district council.

Councillor Michael Thompson, ward member for Charford, said he understands his decision to switch parties "will come as a surprise" but insisted he had "fundamentally not changed at all".

In a detailed statement explaining his decision, Cllr Thompson, who left the Labour group to become an independent councillor last year, said he had been impressed by the Tory group's willingness to "change and modernise" in recent years, and said he had been impressed by the administration had handled the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said: "After meeting with the leader and deputy leader of the Conservative group, I have made the decision to join the Conservative party and serve as a Conservative district councillor. Having been brought up in a traditional Labour background, and being the former leader of the Labour group at the district council, I understand that this announcement will come as a surprise to some and, hence, I feel it right to provide some explanation.

"When one enters a political wilderness, as I did in the Autumn of 2019, it is right that one evaluates one’s own political position, as well the current political climate.

"Personally, I tire of badges – left, right, centre etc. Is politics really so one-dimensional, and are we all so narrow-minded, that we need to sit somewhere on a political spectrum?

"What I realised during my time as an independent was that the Conservative Party had, over the course of time, developed the courage to change, modernise and embrace the ideas of others.

"For example, it might hurt some people to acknowledge it but, for most of its history, the NHS, the world’s best national healthcare service, has been run and developed by the Conservative party.

"These thoughts, together with my own belief that the role of the state is to empower people and not to control them, firmly confirmed that I was aligned with contemporary Conservatism.

"People can call it what they want – but I call it being objective and open-minded to choose the best policies for the desired outcome, for the given time.

"This move will only enhance the way I already serve the residents of Charford who elected me. It will empower me to deliver on the promises I have made and build on the well-documented successes that we have already had.

"The work, approach and achievements of the Conservative county councillor for Charford, Kyle Daisley, is testament to what can be achieved. In under 18 months, he has already achieved significant improvements in road safety such as the 20 mph speed limit and the crossing on Charford Road.

"Have I changed? Fundamentally, not at all – and certainly no more than either of the mainstream parties have during those years.

"After all, I joined a progressive Labour Party that introduced several public and private sector partnerships; I left one that wanted to nationalise many industries and, as well documented in my own journey, to abolish my private education.

"Circumstances change, societies evolve – and what is right is that we adjust accordingly. Remaining steadfast and tribal to a doctrine, simply for the sake of it, is a barrier to progression – loyalty of this kind is simply disloyalty of another – and I will not be disloyal to the principles that brought me to politics - and that keep me in politics."

Cllr Thompson added: "I have been very impressed with the way the current Conservative administration has handled the pandemic and I believe it is on a path to making Bromsgrove an exciting, affordable and prosperous district for future generations, including my own children.

"In the interests of those who elected me, I believe that I am better placed to help this happen as a component of local government, and not as a spanner in its works.

"If being in opposition has taught me anything, it is that shouting from the sidelines is not for the betterment of the people of Bromsgrove.

"I was always too stubborn to be a conformist and a little too rebellious to do what people expect me to.

"For me, this was a difficult decision but I firmly believe it is the right one. I hope people will judge me on my record as a councillor – past, present and future."

The leader of the Conservative group at Bromsgrove District Council, Karen May, said: “Myself and my deputy, Adam Kent were approached by Mike and it was quickly apparent that we have an awful lot in common.

"I have found Mike to be open to collaborative working and we believe he will be an exceptional addition to the group, adding value in several areas, this further demonstrates our commitment as a Conservative group to enhancing delivery of services and support to the residents of Bromsgrove in these very challenging times.”

MP Sajid Javid said a former Labour group leader defecting to join the Conservatives was a "testament to the hard work and dedication" of the council's Conservative group.