A UK Conservative MP has defected to the UK Independence Party, formally resigning from the main ruling coalition party and prompting a by-election in his home constituency.
“I’m joining UKIP!” MP Mark Reckless announced to a standing ovation at the UKIP party conference, which took place in Doncaster on Saturday.
The 43-year-old Rochester and Strood MP, a former investment banker elected to the Commons in 2010, had previously denied rumours that he was going to “jump ship” and the announcement was sprung on the audience as an apparent surprise.
“These decisions are never easy. Mine certainly has not been. Many have been the sleepless nights when I have talked it over with my wife and have thought about the future of our children,” Reckless said.
He elaborated on his reasoning: “It’s a decision I make from optimism. A decision that is born of belief that Britain can be better, of my knowledge of how the Westminster parties hold us back, but also of my belief in the fresh start UKIP offers,” he told the conference.
Reckless labeled UK Prime Minister David Cameron “part of the problem that is holding our country back,” adding that he could keep promises on cutting immigration as a UKIP member, but not as a Conservative.
Westminster journalists had been trying to dig out potential defectors for days before the conference and Reckless was among those questioned. A number of Tory MPs have reportedly been approached by UKIP. However, Reckless had denied he would join UKIP.
The opposition Labour party termed the move a “blow” to Cameron’s authority.
“This is a hammer blow to David Cameron’s already weakened authority,” a Labour statement said. “On the eve of his conference we again see that Conservatives’ confidence in Cameron is plummeting. David Cameron has always pandered to his right, and even they are now deserting him.”
“This also underlines that UKIP are a party of Tory people, Tory policies and Tory money,” Labour added.
Reckless is the second Conservative MP to move to UKIP in as many months. Clacton’s Douglas Carswell also announced last month that he was to stand down.
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