A defecting Labour councillor claims to have found a "kindred spirit" in Mike Whitby, Birmingham's Tory council leader.
Coun Arjan Singh was unveiled at a dramatic press conference in the Conservative Group offices at the city?s Council House yesterday and declared more Labour councillors were preparing to follow his lead and cross the floor to the Conservatives.
One of only two Sikh city councillors, Coun Singh said Coun Whitby was ?someone who, like me, takes inspiration from the Lord and wishes to do good for the benefit of all?.
He explained he quit the Labour Group because of the ?dismay and despair? he felt over recent electoral abuses and an ongoing ?culture of denial? in the party.
However, the Labour Group said Coun Singh, who only became councillor for Handsworth Wood in June 2004, would not have been selected as its candidate in next year?s elections after an internal investigation resulted in him being dropped from the local government panel.
Group leader Sir Albert Bore (Ladywood) said complaints over his behaviour in the ward and his ?appalling? attendance record at council meetings had sparked the investigation.
Coun Whitby (Harborne) welcomed Coun Singh and described his actions as ?very brave, courageous and bold?.
At the press conference - flanked by other senior Conservative councillors - Coun Whitby said he was aware of a number of concerned Labour councillors and called on Prime Minister Tony Blair to investigate the Birmingham Labour Party.
Coun Singh added: ?Don?t be surprised if more Labour councillors follow my lead in the future. There was a recent leadership election and about a third of the group wanted a change of leader, so you can draw your own conclusions from that.?
He denied being the subject of an internal Labour disciplinary action.
?There have been no such disciplinary procedures against me at all and I have not been informed of any decision to drop me from the local government panel.
?If that was the case, why were colleagues and a Labour MP phoning me last night to persuade me to stay??
Coun Whitby said Coun Singh had been at his house when he received those calls.
According to the Labour Group?s 2004-5 attendance record, seen by The Birmingham Post, Coun Singh only attended 46.75 per cent of all council, ward and party meetings.
Sir Albert said Last night: ?A regional Labour Party panel investigated and inter-viewed Arjan Singh and was very critical of his lack of attendance at council meetings, his behaviour in his ward and relationships with individual members of community groups.
?There are no other members of the Birmingham Labour group who will be following him to the Conservatives. This is a figment of Arjan Singh?s imagination.?
Khalid Mahmood MP, whose Perry Barr constituency includes Handsworth Wood, said: ?Arjan Singh had issues to face and I wanted him to face them in the Labour Party, rather than running away from them like this. He had a chance to appeal against being deselected from the panel and I am disappointed he has not done this but it shows you how shallow some people?s political commitment is.?
During the press conference, Coun Singh said he believed the majority of people who voted for him in Handsworth Wood did so because of his ?integrity? rather than because he was a Labour candidate.
He polled the lowest of the three Labour councillors elected in the ward in 2004, with 15 per cent of votes cast.
Coun Singh?s defection will give the Tories 40 members in the council chamber against 46 for Labour. There are 30 Liberal Democrats, two People?s Justice Party councillors and two Independents. The council is controlled by a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition.