A FORMER Labour council chairman has defected to the Conservatives and will stand as a candidate in next year’s county council elections.

Mark Rees is hoping to relaunch his political career with his party’s former rivals, who announced that he had been selected as a Tory candidate for Cainscross.

However, the politician’s comeback got off to a stuttering start after party chiefs realised Cainscross was not an actual division in the county council elections.

The area is split between Stroud Central, which is currently held by Green county councillor Sarah Lunnon, and Rodborough, which is held is Labour’s Brian Oosthuysen.

It has since been conformed he will challenge the Rodborough seat.

However, the mistake drew jeers from many of his former Labour councillors in Stroud.

Mr Rees, had represented Labour in Cainscross since 2007, before he was overlooked in this year’s selection, which saw him stand as an independent candidate.

He cited the ‘ideological disarray, disunity and total disconnect’ as the reason for his change in allegiance.

Mark, who has lived with his wife in Cainscross for 35 years, now working as a painter and decorator, said: “With my hand on my heart, I could not continue as a Labour member and support the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

“The Conservative party is now the party of the working man under Theresa May, creating a country, a society and an economy that works for everyone.

“If elected to the County Council, I will use my experience taking up challenges on behalf of residents to create a safe and prosperous community.”

Born in Leonard Stanley, Mark now 60, started his political career as a parish councillor in Randwick and Cainscross before moving to the district council and propelling himself to council chairman.

His move to the Conservatives has been supported by Stroud MP Neil Carmichael.

He said: “Mark has been a long standing community champion of the residents of Cainscross and he will be a welcome addition to the Conservative team.

“I look forward to working with Mark on the County Council from next May.”

Mark previously sat on the district council housing committee and was a member of the police crime commissioner panel.

Cllr Steve Lydon, Labour leader of Stroud District Council, said: “He doesn’t appear to know where he’s standing for, and one would expect the local MP to know his area well too.

“Either way it’s not a good start to his campaign.”

Cllr Lydon commented that Cainscross was not a division within the county council elections, Cainscross falls into the Stroud Central division.

“He was not deselected because of anything to do with Jeremy Corbyn,” he added.

“He wasn’t chosen to stand in Cainscross because the local members decided not to select him, it’s as simple as that.

“We only borrow these seats, and have to respect the rights of the members to select us, you can’t chop and choose.”

The Gloucestershire County Council elections will be held on Thursday, May 4 2017.