ONE of Hampshire's leading Liberal Democrat councillors has defected to the Conservatives, the Daily Echo can reveal.

Adam Carew, a Lib Dem for 30 years, has described the national party as “”utterly shambolic” and claims to have become disillusioned in the wake of the row over university tuition fees.

Now he has crossed the floor at Hampshire County Council, where he has been a member since 2005, and at East Hampshire District Council, where he represents Whitehill and Bordon.

Cllr Carew, who is well known for speaking out on green issues, said last night that the contrast in “professionalism and supportive environment” he had experienced since joining the Tories was “immediately noticeable”.

He said: “This is something which I have thought about long and hard and it hasn't been an easy decision to make. But like many voters, my disillusionment with the party I joined as a 14 year old began when Nick Clegg broke his pledge on tuition fees.

“The Party nationally seems utterly shambolic and has failed to get its message across. The Lib Dems are deeply unpopular and if they don't take action now they risk coming fourth or even being wiped out to their Celtic Fringe in the Euros next year and General Election in 2015.

“I got into politics to stand-up for local people. I come from a Liberal family and have been a Liberal nearly all my life but recent events have been extremely unpleasant and have made me re-evaluate how best I can secure a positive outcome for our town I was elected to serve.

“There are moderates in all parties. My politics have not changed; I was a Liberal, now I am a liberal Conservative. I have met David Cameron and Boris Johnson and think Cameron was absolutely right to bring the Conservatives back to the centre of British politics.”

The leader of the Liberal Democrat group at Hampshire County Council, Keith House, called cllr Carew's decision “regretful” and claimed it was the result of a leadership dispute cllr Carew had had at Whitehill Town Council.

Cllr Carew claimed this was “only a small part of the matter”.

But cllr House added: “I am sad that what is a personal dispute in Whitehill has affected his judgement and I think he will regret his decision sooner rather than later.

“The party, as always, is bigger than the individual and will continue to be a success in Whitehill.”