A LABOUR councillor who defected to the Tories says it was a 'red herring' that he was suspended by his former party.

Councillor Chauhdry Shafique, who was High Wycombe's Mayor last year, quit the party and joined the Conservatives.

The Labour group suspended Councillor Chauhdry Shafique before he made the dramatic switch, with his former party saying he had breached its rules.

Wycombe Labour said in a statement: "Councillor Shafique was suspended from the Labour Group on Wycombe District Council on Friday September 20 because he was in breach of Labour Party rules and, despite being given a number of warnings, he failed to heed them and comply with the rules. He resigned from the Labour Party after his suspension."

Cllr Shafique, who represents the Totteridge Ward on Wycombe District Council, said he was on the verge of defecting - just as his suspension was issued.

"Literally seconds before I was going to send a resignation," he said.

"It was already well in the pipeline that's why I think the suspension was a red herring."

The suspension centre around the group's rules, stipulating that Labour councillors should pay a ten per cent levy, from allowances, to the national party and a one per cent levy to the Wycombe branch.

Cllr Shafique disagreed out of principle with this, saying taxpayers' money should not go to a political party.

He was suspended for not meeting the deadline to pay this levy, he said.

He said he disagreed with this when it was set after the 2011 election but hoped it would be changed later.

But he lost a recent vote and relations with Labour Leader Cllr Ian Bates had deteriorated, he said, claiming the party also wanted an 11 per cent levy on his Mayoral allowances too.

Wycombe Labour said his statement to the BFP was not accurate.

As to why he did not quit immediately when the levy amount was decided in 2011, Cllr Shafique said: "It was not the sort of thing I wanted to do in a hurry having had that commitment to the Labour party and I'd said I wanted to flag it up next time around. With being the mayor in the pipeline as well my mind had been set on that in due course."

Commenting on why he chose the Tories after what he called a lifelong commitment to Labour, he said: "I have been very comfortable with Conservative party colleagues (at WDC), I've not had any problems with them.

"In my judgement the Conservative party has changed in lots of ways I find very acceptable. I feel closer to the Conservative party in terms of family values and things like that."

He said he had become close friends with Tories ex-Wycombe MP Paul Goodman, who he had fought for his seat, and current MP Steve Baker.

He said he had also been unhappy about Gordon Brown's economic policy and ID cards during the last Labour government.