On a stage at the UKIP’s Doncaster conference, Tory backbencher Mark Reckless today announced his defection to UKIP. His views diverge from those of the Tory leadership in a number of areas including Immigration. Barrister, Banker and City Economist in the past, Reckless has latterly been known as something of a loose cannon in conservative circles (he was once part of a rebellion of conservative MPs on the EU Budget).
He told an entranced audience he sees the Tory leadership as “part of the problem that is holding our country back”, and that he believes voters felt “ripped off and lied to”.
On immigration he said: “I promise to cut immigration while treating people fairly and humanely, I cannot keep that promise as a Conservative, I can keep it as UKIP”. The Immigration Rules are insane, he continued (many immigration lawyers would agree, for one reason or another) and there is no sense in which Britain has control over who comes into the country and in what numbers.
His defection will trigger a by-election in Reckless’ constituency, Rochester and Strood, where he is expected to fight for his new team. This announcement is timed for maximum impact during conference season and the by-election coming only months before the General Election.
It was a bit of a coup for Nigel Farage who, with conjuror’s flair, produced Reckless to a whooping crowd. They continued to chant (“Ukip”) throughout his speech.
The move (alone or with any further similar defections) will raise the importance of immigration generally and European free movement in particular in the coming debate.
Reckless won his Kent seat with a majority of 9,953 in 2010, and was elected to the Home Affairs Select Committee in the same year. He has argued publicly for the deportation of Abu Hamza and Abu Qatada. He has been a vocal critic of the European Court of Human Rights (as “eroding British Freedom and democracy”) and the European Budget. As one of the relatively new MPs after the 2010 by election he had to apologise for missing a vote because he was too drunk- “I apologise unreservedly and I don’t plan to drink again at Westminster” (sound familiar?).
Well, all in all it sounds like Mr Reckless will feel at home with his new friends.
Photos: Mark reckless; the Freedom Association. Thank you both.