"I will not defect," says Labour peer
The Labour peer Lord Ahmed strenuously denied to me tonight rumours which have been circulating at Westminster for several weeks that he is about to defect to the Conservatives.
"I'm not going anywhere," he told me. "I would never leave the Labour Party. I've been a member of the Labour Party for 32 years, and may this continue for another 32."
Lord Ahmed says the rumours have been fuelled "over the last three years" by a Labour minister whom he describes as a "sad loser".
Lord Ahmed would be a significant catch for David Cameron, who has been notably unsuccessful in attracting high-level recruits from the Labour Party.
It is being suggested at Westminster that Lord Ahmed may be enticed into joining the Conservatives by his friend Baroness (Sayeeda) Warsi, who was appointed to David Cameron's Shadow Cabinet last summer as the party spokesman on communities, and given a peerage.
Ahmed and Warsi, who are both Muslims, went on a joint mission to Sudan last September to bring back the teacher Gillian Gibbons who had been imprisoned for allowing her class to call a teddy-bear Mohammed.
"It is complete nonsense," Ahmed insists. "I have known Sayeeda Warsi and her father and mother for a long time. There is no way Sayeeda Warsi or David Cameron could get me to join the Conservative Party."
Lord Ahmed says, however, that he does intend to join the Conservatives in the Lords in opposing the government's legislation to allow terrorist suspects to be detained for up to 42 days.