The former leader of Sutton’s Conservatives who publicly quit the party last week has dealt his former group another blow after coming out in favour of Liberal Democrat Paul Burstow in the May 7 general election.

Councillor Graham Whitham, ward member for Cheam had been a Conservative for more than 50 years.

He was first elected on to Sutton Council in 1978 and has been voted on as a Tory nine times.

This week the now independent member switched allegiances and is backing the Liberal Democrats to win in Sutton and Cheam.

He said: “I could no longer avoid the reality of the party changing beyond recognition. “In today’s Conservative Party you are weak unless you are continually strident.

“The Conservative manifesto is an un-costed fantasy.

“It fails to set out where the £12bn cuts will fall which can only harm some of society’s most vulnerable.

“They are keeping quiet while there are votes to be won.

“We need our MP ensuring that we stop cuts beyond what is needed. “Paul Burstow has a real understanding of residents needs; the experience to make sure Sutton and Cheam’s voice is effectively heard at Westminster, with a compassionate, balanced approach, at the heart of government.

“That is why, for this election, I am putting my independent support behind Paul Burstow’s campaign for re-election as our MP on May 7.”

He dismissed suggestions made following his resignation that there had been incentives behind his defection, such as being made a committee chairman which comes with a five-figure allowance, or that he would resign his seat and run in a byelection under the Lib Dem banner.

Coun Whitham said: “Suggestions like that just reflect the stature of politics they see people operating at.

“It shows their mindset.

“They are mistaking me for still being one of them.”

To suggestions he was going to stand down from his seat and run for re-election as a Liberal Democrat, Coun Whitham said: “It’s amazing the ‘facts’' people can concoct.”