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Election in turmoil as LibDem candidate says: I'm a Labour supporter
AN ELECTION has been thrown into turmoil after a Liberal Democrat candidate quit - and announced that he was a lifelong Labour supporter.
Sajid Ibrahim had already featured on thousands of Lib Dem flyers delivered through- out Blackburn's Shear Brow ward before withdrawing from the contest "for personal reasons".
Now he has begun campaigning for the man who was his Labour rival for the Blackburn with Darwen Council seat, Suleman Khonat.
Angry Lib Dem leader David Foster said: "It doesn't help politics if people aren't prepared to stick to their principles. We didn't twist his arm to stand - he was aware of our policies and was happy."
But Mr Ibrahim said: "I had thought that, regardless of the party, if I could get a seat on the council I could implement the changes I wanted to.
"But then over the next two weeks I thought the Lib Dems were not the right party for me."
In the first set of leaflets handed out in Shear Brow last month, Mr Ibrahim is quoted as saying: "Last year local people kicked out Labour after more than 20 years in charge.
"Now they can see what a good choice they made."
The flyer, which cost about £60 to print: - Praised the Conservative, Lib Dem and For Darwen coalition for "the lowest council tax increase in years"
- Boasted of the investments in health and community safety announced by the coalition last month - Said the former Blackburn college student was "keen to strengthen the Lib Dem team of councillors."
But now, a statement released jointly with Mr Khonat, has said: "Sajid has supported Labour all his life and now wants to become actively involved in helping Suleman facilitate positive change in Shear Brow."
Mr Ibrahim has been replaced as the Liberals' nomination by Ilyas Akubat, and a replacement leaflet has been produced.
But this has sparked a fresh row because in it the Lib Dems quote Mr Ibrahim as supporting their party.
Coun Foster said the statement had been added with Mr Ibrahim's approval.
But Mr Ibrahim said: "I didn't say I would support them. I have switched to Labour. I have come to realise, daft as it sounds, that I have always supported Labour.
And Mr Khonat said: "There is no way he would have said that - he has been knocking on doors with me this week."
Coun Foster said: "We don't have backing from big money businesses or trade unions, we have to raise it locally. Local members will not be too pleased that because of one person's misguided views we have wasted that money.
"The new leaflet was sent to him and approved - we never send anything out with candidates' names on that isn't approved.
"What I want to know is on what grounds he decided to change sides twice within a matter of weeks?"
Lib Dem executive member Salim Lorgat claimed Mr Ibrahim had been put under pressure to switch sides.
He added: "This is a travesty of democracy."
Conservative council leader Coun Colin Rigby said he did not want to comment.
Shear Brow, where Labour member Hussain Akhtar is standing down after 12 years on the council, is one of 22 seats up for grabs in Blackburn and Darwen on May 1.