A former Shipley MP came under fire on the BBC’s Question Time show over his decision to leave the Labour Party to help form the new Independent Group.

Chris Leslie, who was born in Keighley, was elected as Shipley’s MP in 1997 and held the role until 2005, when the Conservatives won the seat.

Mr Leslie, now the MP for Nottingham East, hit the national headlines this week when he left Labour alongside seven other MPs in protest at the direction of the party.

On last night’s Question Time, fellow panelists and audience members urged him to contest a by-election because he was elected on a Labour ticket.

Among those who grilled Mr Leslie was Andy McDonald, shadow transport secretary for Labour, who told him: “If you really care about our democracy, do the right thing and go back to the people and say ‘here I am, I want a different programme’.

But Mr Leslie gave a robust defence, telling the audience: “There were real important reasons why I felt I had to leave the Labour Party and I’ve been in the Labour Party for over three decades and it was not an easy decision to make.

“I actually don’t believe my values have changed throughout that whole period. What has changed is the Labour Party and it’s the Labour Party that has moved away. It is no longer the Labour Party that most people think it is.

“In our Parliamentary democracy, the reason we have members of parliament elected - on the ballot paper it has the name there - is because we have to use our individual judgment and yes reach into our own integrity from time to time, otherwise you would just have a ballot paper that listed the parties and that would be that.

“It isn’t something that I’ve taken lightly at all. When you think about the reasons I have done it, particularly in respect of what I regard as a false prospectus that was put by Labour at the general election which, on Brexit, where a lot of people did think that they were voting for a party that would stand up and defend the livelihoods and the jobs of those affected by brexit and to now find that the Labour Party is enabling a Government Brexit, that was for me a very important reason why I had to stand up for my constituents, and that’s what I’m doing.”

The presenter, Fiona Bruce, retorted: “The question is should you subject yourself to a by-election?”

Mr Leslie replied: “The dilemma I think we all have is that we’re facing a big national crisis...

Ms Bruce intervened: “But what’s the answer to the question?”

Mr Leslie responded: “No I don’t believe in a by-election because we have a crisis in our country and if I just turned a blind eye and put my party whip or the tribe view ahead of my own judgement, I would not be acquitting myself as I believe I have a duty to do to my constituents.

“I want to of course have a public vote as was promised in the Labour Party policy. I believe that the Labour Party is betraying the country on the promise it made particularly in September.”

Ms Bruce told Leslie: “You’re coming in for a bit of a pasting and we’re only ten minutes in.”

Earlier in the day, it emerged that thousands of donors have responded to a plea for funding for the Independent Group.

Mr Leslie insisted it would be transparent about the source of its funding.

The ex-Labour frontbencher, speaking alongside Heidi Allen, who quit the Tories to join the group on Wednesday, said there had been a good response to the crowdfunding campaign but called for more donors to come forward to help them "tool up".

He told reporters in Westminster: "We have had thousands of people giving small sums and some wanting to give larger sums.

"Obviously the Electoral Commission have rules for political parties.

"While we are not a political party yet, we have set out to say we will map over the rules on parties as though we were a political party and comply with the full disclosures of that.

"Obviously there are certain requirements to check the permissibility and above certain thresholds there will be publication in due course.

"I don't know who is going to want to support and give money, but we will need it.

"We don't have the infrastructure, we need to tool up pretty quickly and get ourselves in shape."