Croydon Central MP Andrew Pelling has finally announced he will be standing as an independent candidate in the next general election.

After months of speculation the MP announced his decision in an exclusive interview with the Croydon Guardian.

There are fears among senior Croydon Conservatives he will split the Tory vote paving the way for Labour’s Gerry Ryan to win the election.

Mr Pelling, a former Conservative Party member, said it had been a difficult choice to make.

His announcement pits him against his former colleague and friend, the Conservative candidate Gavin Barwell.

Mr Pelling was outcast from the Conservative party after the whip was withdrawn following allegations he assaulted his wife in September 2007.

No charges were brought against Mr Pelling.

He told the Croydon Guardian: “I have thought very carefully about this, I am not going into this election intending to scupper the result but wanting to win and that is why it has taken so long to get to the starting line.”

He has spoken previously of his feeling of betrayal when he was ousted and never taken back in by the party he served for more than 20 years.

Croydon Central was a hotly contested seat in the 2005 general election.

Mr Pelling won by just 75 votes with a 4.4 per cent swing against Labour’s Geraint Davies who had held the seat since 1997.

The vote was so close there had to be two recounts before the final result was announced.

Mr Barwell is putting everything he has into this election, pinning his future career on winning the seat for the Conservatives.

He has stepped down as a councillor for the Coulsdon West ward and quit his full time job with the Conservative party where he worked as Operations Director until 2006, after which was self employed, advising politicians and organisations on campaign management. This also included work for Conservative billionaire Lord Michael Ashcroft.

Mr Pelling said: “I think it’s very sad, I am upset to be running against Gavin. My approach with the campaign is to be entirely positive. I am talking about what I can offer. Gavin is earnest, you can see that in his leaflets.

“My attitude towards the Conservatives is entirely positive. People may get upset or concerned about what I am doing but I am standing because I want to win.

“It’s about public service, not self-service.”

Mr Pelling said he stands out from the other candidates, which include Labour's Gerry Ryan, as an independent.

He said: “There are great advantages to being independent and being away from the party machine.

“It gives me an enormous amount of freedom.”

This year will mark the 28th anniversary of Mr Pelling being involved in politics. He was first elected as a councillor for Broad Green when he was 22.

He said: “I am very much up for representing Croydon for another term, there are lots of important issues to speak about.

He plans to make crime his top priority.

He said: “Croydon is in crisis, my family have lived here for six generations. This revolves around the issue of crime. A lot of people don't shop in Croydon because they don't feel safe.”

He said something needs to be done about the knife and gun crime in Croydon’s gangs and will be campaigning to get more police on the streets.

“Visiting mothers and fathers of sons who have been killed all along the A23 and in Thornton Heath, that is very sad.”

Mr Pelling said he is against Croydon Council’s decision to regenerate council-owned land with development partner John Laing by creating the Urban Regeneration Vehicle (CCURV). He is in favour of cancelling the new council headquarters being built by CCURV on Fell Road.

“I do feel very strongly about the way the local council is becoming involved in property speculation. They are making a play in the market and it is hugely risky, it is a lot of money.

“The council should be in the business of providing local services.

“I am very concerned about the incinerator proposal. It is clear to me we are going for something on Beddington Lane.”

Mr Pelling will also be campaigning to save Croydon's A&E as he fears it is at risk of being downgraded.

He will be fighting for his seat against Gavin Barwell (Con), Gerry Ryan (Lab), Peter Lambell (Lib Dem), Berenice Golberg (Green) and Ralph Atkinson (UKIP).