A FORMER Labour councillor who defected to the opposition in protest of his party's policies has hit back at claims there was an underlying motive prompting his sudden shift in political allegiance.

Sam Smith announced this week he had officially joined the Conservative Party, deserting years of Labour values.

Mr Smith, who was employed by the Labour Party and represented Haldens ward as a Labour councillor for three years before stepping down in the last year's elections, said he had become 'increasingly disappointed by in-fighting and confusion' within the party, both at a local and national level.

Former Labour co-member, Councillor Maureen Cook, who serves Hatfield Central, accused Mr Smith of jumping ship with a view to stand again as councillor.

She told the Review: "It could be that Sam Smith fancies himself as a councillor again and thinks by joining the Conservatives they might have him as a councillor."

But Mr Smith, who joined the Labour Party while he was a pupil at Stanborough school 12 years ago, denied the move was for personal gain, instead insisting he agreed with his opposition's policies.

He said: "Whatever party I was in I would seek to have some involvement in local politics. I don't think moving out of Labour was personally advantageous because I think I have got a track record there and it would be easier.

"I thought joining the Tory party was the right thing to do because I agreed with their policies."

Leader of Welywn Hatfield Labour group, Margaret Birleson, said members felt betrayed by Mr Smith's critcisms of the party, its political agenda and prime minister Gordon Brown.

She said: "I'm very surprised that he's joining the Tories because he was one of their biggest critics both nationally and locally.

"He used to get up at council meetings and disagree with their policies.

"He's let us down and he's let himself down. It shows he didn't have strong convictions or beliefs and I find that surprising."