QC Paul McBride switches allegiance to Conservatives over party's 'smears and fears'

LABOUR suffered a new setback last night after one of its leading Scottish supporters said he was quitting the "serially mendacious and incompetent" party to join the Tories.

Paul McBride, one of Scotland's top QCs, is understood to have agreed to advise the Conservatives on justice matters and will speak at their conference next month.

McBride said the sleaze engulfing Labour had led him to change his political allegiance and indicated he disapproved of the scurrilous e-mails Gordon Brown's adviser Damian McBride – no relation – had sent from Downing Street.

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McBride said: "I have been a supporter of the Labour party all my life. However, I now find myself in a position where I can no longer support a party that is serially mendacious and incompetent.

"Wednesday's Budget showed that Labour has been in power for too long. It is a party that now relies on smears and fears rather than policies, persuasion and hope. The sooner there is a change of Government the better, and David Cameron is that change."

McBride added: "In Scotland, Annabel Goldie has set the agenda and is delivering real change. I am delighted to be speaking at our spring conference in Perth in May – an event which will no doubt show Scotland that the Conservatives are winning again."

McBride, 44, is regarded as one of the pre-eminent counsels in Scotland and has been involved in high-profile appeals and media and criminal cases for 22 years. He sits as a member of the Scottish Legal Aid Board, administering millions of pounds of public money relating to those who require legal aid. He is the former vice-chairman of the Faculty of Advocates Criminal Bar Association.

He has been involved in various public inquiries and health and safety prosecutions, acting for a wide range of individuals of stature in Scottish and English life. He has also appeared regularly in the judicial committee of the Privy Council.

Last year McBride was Scotland's ninth-highest-earning legal aid QC, making 217,700.

Goldie said: "This is yet another sign that the Conservative party is making real progress in Scotland and I welcome Paul warmly to our ranks. His experience and knowledge, especially in the justice field, will be invaluable."

Andrew Fulton, chairman of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party, said: "Paul is another welcome addition to our ranks. I know he will not be the last… more and more people (are] coming to the Conservative cause."

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A spokesman for the Labour party said: "Mr McBride might be upset with the increase in tax for people earning over 150,000. However, the vast majority of Scots support that policy."