Solihull’s Liberal Democrat MP has shrugged off the defection of a borough councillor, as her party begins its annual conference in Liverpool.
Lorely Burt (Lib Dem Solihull) accused Labour of stage-managing the defection of Simon Slater, a councillor who crossed the floor from the Lib Dems to Labour.
Coun Slater, who has represented the Shirley West ward since 2006, said he had been forced to leave the party because it was imposing massive spending cuts as part of the coalition government with the Conservatives.
He said: “I got into politics to fight for the poorest and most vulnerable members of society - but I can no longer do that as a member of the Liberal Democrats.”
Labour claims the defection reveals disillusionment among party activists who oppose the coalition with the Tories.
It also highlights the difficulty Ms Burt could face holding on to her Solihull seat at the next election, after she received a majority of just 175 in May.
She said: “Labour has picked their moment to try to cause maximum embarrassment. But the truth is that people do move parties, and councillors change parties with relative frequency.
“I like Simon very much but it is bizarre that he has chosen to move to a party that has caused the problems lading to spending cuts in the first place.
“Unless we tackle the deficit today, our children will be paying off the debt for decades to come.”
But some activists turned on the party’s leadership, with a senior peer accusing Nick Clegg and Government ministers of causing “dismay” among supporters about the way Tory policies were being enthusiastically promoted.
Lib Dem peer Lord Greaves said: “I see Liberal Democrat spokespeople going on television and in the Press defending in detail policies that I know to be Tory policies that this party does not agree with, which are against party policy and which will not be party policy at the next general election.”
David Rendel, former MP for Newbury, said the leadership “seem terrified of the tabloid stories that they might get about splits in the coalition ... so terrified that they pretend that every coalition policy is agreed on both sides.”