A DRAMATIC 24 hours in Swindon politics has seen a Labour councillor defect to the Conservatives before having a sudden change of heart and u-turning on his decision.

Matthew Courtliff, who was elected to represent the Lydiard and Freshbrook ward just five months ago, made the shock decision on Tuesday evening following a meeting with council leader David Renard.

After completing the paperwork to officially join the Conservative group, Coun Courtliff released a statement citing concerns with the direction of Labour under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership as the motive behind his decision.

He said he looked forward to Theresa May’s leadership and offered his support for the Conservative group’s vision for Swindon.

The young councillor’s decision to cross the council chamber was seen as a major coup for the Conservative administration.

Labour councillors reacted with surprise and disappointment at the news, with their leader, Coun Jim Grant, saying the decision represented “the worst about politics.”

But before the dust had even settled on the defection, Coun Courtliff had a change of heart and performed a dramatic u-turn. 

On Wednesday morning he declared that he had made “a terrible mistake” and described the day’s events as “the most stupid 24 hours of my life.”

Following a meeting between Coun Grant and Coun Courtliff, the Swindon Labour Group confirmed that he would remain a Labour councillor representing the residents of Lydiard and Freshbrook. 

Coun Courtliff said: “It has been an incredibly difficult two days; and having spent some time meeting with Conservative councillors and MPs yesterday, I have come to the conclusion that I made a mistake in thinking that joining the Conservative Party was right; for me or my constituents. 

“My home is in the Labour Party and I owe a huge apology to my council colleagues, fellow party members and my constituents who have watched this unfold.

“My priority now is to re-join my colleagues, work hard for my constituents in Lydiard and Freshbrook and to put this all behind me.”

Labour leader, Jim Grant, offered his backing to the young councillor. 

He said: “Clearly on reflection Matthew has decided to do the right thing by his electorate who elected him as a Labour councillor only five months ago and has done the honourable thing and remained as a Labour councillor. 

“We are proud that he has thought twice about this and made the right choice.

"The priority now is for Matthew to focus on his ward, and for the Labour group to hold the Tories to account on raising council tax through the back door by introducing parishing, closing Swindon’s libraries and introducing cuts to bus services. 

“I know Matthew is as eager as I am to refocus on the issues that really matter in Swindon.”

The leader of the council and the Conservative group, David Renard, has suggested that this may not be the end of the unusual sequence of events. 

Leaving options open for the future, Coun Renard said: “I understand that Coun Courtliff has come under considerable pressure since signing his application to join the Conservative group.  

“As a result of this intense and perhaps unduly forceful lobbying, he is taking time to consider his position, which I respect.  

“Should he wish to pursue the course of action he started, my door will be open for him.”