Former Tory MP backs Labour at general election

Former Conservative MP Mark Logan has said he is backing Labour at the next general election, saying the party could "bring back optimism into British life".

In an exclusive interview with BBC News, Mr Logan, who represented Bolton North East for the Tories until Parliament dissolved on Thursday, said Labour had been on a "journey" and now offered "centrist politics".

He added that the Tory Party was now "unrecognisable" from the party he joined a decade ago.

Mr Logan won his seat with a majority of just 378 in 2019, making it one of the most marginal in the country.

Mr Logan, who supported Brexit, revealed in the interview that he was standing down and said his application to join Labour was "going in today".

Labour has already chosen a candidate for his former constituency.

Asked if he could run for Labour in the future, he said: "I wouldn't rule out coming back into public life in the future but this is me definitely stepping down in this Parliament.”

Speaking on BBC Question Time, Schools Minister Damian Hinds said his party was focused on offering a "brighter future to families" and "not one individual".

Asked about Mr Logan's decision, the Conservative said: "People make their own decisions. It’s not a decision I would have made."

He added: "The economy’s already turning the corner…and how we offer a brighter future to families throughout this country. That’s what it’s about, not one individual."

A Conservative Party spokesman said: "Much of the association wanted him deselected for inactivity and his failure to be present in Bolton for extended periods of time. And he's been asking No 10 for a peerage."

A second spokesperson said the party would choose a new candidate for Bolton shortly, adding: “It’s notable that Mark Logan has defected to a party he can’t even name a single policy of.

"We wish Mark Logan well with the Labour Party - a party that has no plan for the country and would take us back to square one."

Explaining his decision to support Labour, Mr Logan said: "The time has come to bring back optimism into British public life."

He compared the mood of the country to New Labour's 1997 election campaign, which had Things Can Only Get Better as its official anthem, and was followed by a landslide victory for the party.

"When I look back to my teenage years, in 1997 when Labour came to the fore at that time and we obviously heard the song Things Can Only Get Better, I feel that we're at that point again in British politics and British history," he said.

He added: "For my constituents and for the country, it's right that we get some stability back into the UK, we get optimism, we get new and fresh ideas."

General election 2024
[BBC]

Mr Logan, who backed Rishi Sunak to be Tory leader, did not criticise the prime minister personally, saying he could "leave politics with his head held high" if he lost the election.

"It's more about not the the push factor of Conservatives, but the pull factor of Keir Starmer, the new cabinet that would come in, the fresh faces, the fresh ideas," he said.

Mr Logan said he had been considering backing Labour "for quite a long period" but felt the point he stood down as an MP was the right time to announce his support for the party "because the electorate did vote me in as a Conservative MP".

The former businessman and diplomat, who was raised in Northern Ireland, added: “I believe as a politician it's incumbent upon me to be able to say, to look people in the eyes in Bolton and say that I believe that a Labour government is going to serve you better, your interests better, it's going to be better for your pockets, it's better for the economy, it's going to be better for the UK.”

In February Mr Logan broke ranks from his own party to call for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza conflict, saying Israel had "gone too far".

At a similar time Labour also shifted its position to back an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, following pressure on the party.

Asked if leader Keir Starmer had now got it right on Gaza, Mr Logan said he believed Labour was "best placed to deal with what's going to come down the track" in relation to the conflict.

Mr Logan, who speaks fluent Mandarin, is chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on China.

Before becoming an MP he worked for the UK Foreign Office and was head of communications at the British Consulate-General Shanghai.

In 2022, he quit his role as a ministerial aide in protest at Boris Johnson's leadership.

It comes after two other MPs - Natalie Elphicke and Dan Poulter - also quit the Tories to join Labour earlier this month.

However, as they defected before Parliament was dissolved for the election, they briefly sat as Labour MPs before standing down.