- guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 30 March 2010 16.11 BST
The Tories were dealt a general election blow today when an MP thrown out of the party announced he would stand as an independent.
Andrew Pelling confirmed that he would fight to retain his Croydon Central seat – potentially splitting the Conservative vote in the key marginal.
The south London seat, which Pelling snatched from Labour in 2005 with a majority of just 75, is third on the opposition's target list.
Boundary changes now give Labour a nominal majority of 328 but Pelling hopes his personal vote could see him returned as an independent MP.
Tory HQ stripped Pelling of the party whip in 2007 after he was arrested over allegations he assaulted his wife.
No charges were ever brought and he has since sat as an independent in the Commons.
Announcing his decision to stand, Pelling said he had been encouraged by "strong support" from many local people who had approached him to run again.
"It's more about public service than self-service at a time when voters are disillusioned with party politics," he said in a statement.
"I am 625th out of 646 MPs in the expenses league table and do not take a second-home allowance. Independence has allowed me to do politics differently, enabling me to put Croydon residents ahead of party politics and to lobby effectively for Croydon by being non-partisan.
"I do not have to obey party bosses and so can speak out for Croydon and on issues like immigration, an EU membership referendum and foolish overseas wars that the parties prefer not to speak of."
Pelling said he believed his candidacy in effect ruled out a Conservative win and that he was confident he could also attract sufficient disillusioned Labour voters to win outright.