Conservative MP and ex-minister Daniel Poulter defects to Labour

Former minister and Conservative MP Dan Poulter has defected to Labour.

In an exclusive TV interview, the MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich told the BBC's Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg that he could no longer look his NHS colleagues and patients in the eye and stay on as a Conservative.

Dr Poulter, who works part time as a doctor, said that Conservatives were no longer focused on public services.

The Conservative Party said it was "disappointing news".

"What Dan says is wrong as Sir Keir Starmer has no plan for our NHS," a party spokesman said.

"Under the Conservatives we are raising NHS funding to a record £165bn a year, helping it recover from the effects of the pandemic and driving forward its first ever long term workforce plan so that we train the doctors and nurses we need for the future in our country."

Dr Poulter said he would sit as a Labour MP until the general election and then stand down.

Defections are rare. Such departures are damaging. And Dr Poulter's blast at the Tories' record on the health service in particular will hurt.

The MP, who still works on NHS wards, said he had been thinking about quitting the Conservatives for the last few months, having been first elected in 2010. The strain on the NHS made his mind up.

The consultant psychiatrist, who served as a health minister under the coalition from 2012 to 2015, told the BBC: "I found it increasingly difficult to look my NHS colleagues in the eye, my patients in the eye, and my constituents in the eye with good conscience."

He suggested the party had stopped valuing public services, saying: "The difficulty for the Conservative Party is that the party I was elected into valued public services... it had a compassionate view about supporting the more disadvantaged in society.

"I think the Conservative Party today is in a very different place."

He said he had "no animus" towards Prime Minister Rishi Sunak but that the country needed a general election as soon as possible, adding that Labour and Sir Keir Starmer could be trusted to run the NHS and the country.

Sir Keir said he was pleased by Dr Poulter's decision to join Labour, adding: "It's time to end the Conservative chaos, turn the page and get Britain's future back."

No date for the next general election has been set - but it has to take place before the end of January 2025.

Dr Poulter's decision to join the Conservatives' rivals is another blow to the prime minister's authority, just days before the party faces local elections across England and Wales on 2 May.

When asked if he thought his constituents who elected him as a Conservative would be angry with his decision, Dr Poulter said he could have carried on to the election and then stood down, or triggered a by-election, adding: "I thought on balance, because there's going to be an election very soon, it's better to work for my constituents through to the end of this Parliament."

It is only the third Conservative defection since 2019.

Lee Anderson who sat briefly as an independent joined Reform last month. Christian Wakeford left the Conservatives for the Labour Party in 2022.