CONSERVATIVE backbench MP Mark Reckless announced yesterday that he is defecting to Ukip after claiming that the Tory leadership was “part of the problem that is holding our country back”.
The MP for Rochester and Strood, who is the second Tory backbencher to join Ukip in a month, made his announcement to cheering crowds at the Eurosceptic party’s annual conference in Doncaster.
“Today I am leaving the Conservative party and joining Ukip,” he said. Reckless said he had not taken the decision lightly but added he believed that voters felt “ripped off and lied to” by the Conservatives.
On immigration, Reckless said constituents needed to believe that Britain had control over who comes into the country.
He said: “The insanity of our immigration rules means that a second-generation Briton wanting to bring granny over for a wedding, still less if they want to get married to someone from abroad themselves, will face huge difficulties, yet they will see an open door to immigration to anyone from the European Union.”
Reckless told activists he answered to his constituents and wanted to seek their permission to change allegiance.
The surprise announcement, which comes on the eve of the Conservative party conference in Birmingham, is a further blow to David Cameron.
And last night a Comres poll of 2,003 voters found the Conservatives would win just 29 per cent of the vote if an election was held tomorrow, down 3 per cent on last month.
Labour were on 35 per cent, up 1 per cent, and Ukip on 19 per cent, up 1 per cent from last month.
Nigel Farage was also viewed more favourably than David Cameron – at 26 per cent compared to 25 per cent. Ed Miliband was on 19 per cent.
As Reckless was introduced on stage by a clearly delighted Nigel Farage, the crowd broke out into whoops and cheers and continued to chant “Ukip, Ukip” throughout his speech.
Reckless added: “I do feel that the leadership of the Conservative party is part of the problem that is holding our country back.”
He said he had made promises to constituents at the last election that the government was now failing to keep.
He said: “As well as fairness to everyone else in our country, I promised to help restore order to our public finances, yet I find I cannot do that as a Conservative but I can do it as Ukip.”
Reckless faces a tough battle to return to Westminster under the Ukip banner and appealed for activists to support his campaign.
At the 2010 general election he held the Rochester and Strood seat, in Kent, for the Conservatives with half of the vote. Ukip did not field a candidate.