GWENT Assembly member Mohammad Asghar last night defended his decision to defect from Plaid Cymru to the Conservatives.

The 64-year-old AM for South Wales East, who lives in Newport and became the first Assembly Member from an ethnic minority when he was elected in May 2007, said he was joining the Tories because he felt “out of tune” with the views of Plaid Cymru.

The opponent of full Welsh independence told the Argus he had joined Plaid in 2000 as a way of getting into the 'political system' - with the hope he could change the party's policies from the inside.

But yesterday, amid allegations from political opponents that he had 'jumped before he was pushed' to make way for Plaid MP Adam Price's goal of joining the Senedd as a list AM, the Pakistan-born politician said he had failed.

He said he was “a little parrot in a jungle."

"Unity is strength and we should be pulling together," he said, claiming full independence would be disastrous for Wales.

"I felt the Conservatives were the party to offer the best future for the whole of Britain, not just one part of it."

There are also strong republican elements in Plaid Cymru, a polar opposite to the view of ardent royalist Mr Asghar, who was member of the Conservative party for a short time more than 20 years ago.

Fellow Conservative AM William Graham said he had always felt 'perplexed' that Mr Asghar, a former Newport councillor, had joined Plaid in 2000.

Mr Asghar's 26-year-old daughter Natasha, who has stood as a Plaid candidate in previous Assembly and European elections, has also defected to the Tories.

She said: “For me, family is everything. I believe in my father. Wherever he goes I will follow.’’ Last night, after sitting in the Conservative benches in the Senedd for the first time, Mr Asghar said he was looking forward to meeting Tory leader David Cameron, and refused to rule out the possibility of standing in the forthcoming General Election as a Conservative candidate.

He said he would be with the Tories 'for life'.

But he showed no bitterness to his former party, describing leader Ieuan Wyn Jones as a 'thorough gentleman'.

Mr Wyn Jones said he was disappointed, and chairman of the Plaid Cymru group, Dai Lloyd called on him to resign his seat, claiming he had no mandate to sit as a Tory.

Mr Asghar said he would not be standing down and would still represent the people of South Wales East.

Plaid now have 14 AMs and the Tories 13.