Conservative MP Mark Reckless quits to join Ukip
Latest blow to Cameron announced gleefully by Ukip leader at party conference
Conservative MP Mark Reckless (right) is welcomed to Ukip by party leader Nigel Farage after the tory MP announced he was defecting to the party. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
“I am leaving the Conservative Party,” Mr Reckless told the Doncaster gathering which erupted into scenes of minutes-long jubiliation, “and joining Ukip”.
Mr Reckless’ move now prompts another by-election in his Rochester and Stroud constituency, which is not regarded even amongst the 100th most likely seats to be vulnerable to a threat by Ukip.
The arch-Eurosceptic MP, who believes that the UK should quit the European Union, has long faced speculation that he would quit the Conservatives.
However, the timing of his move - on the eve of the opening of the Conservative conference in Birmingham tomorrow - comes less than a fortnight before the Clacton by-election.
There, former Conservative MP Douglas Carswell is seeking re-election under the Ukip flag - a victory, if it comes, that will make him Ukip’s first elected MP.
Delegates spontaneously stated chanting “Ukip, Ukip” when Mr Reckless announced his decision to defect, while the Ukip leader beamed broadly on stage.
Mr Farge has learned the arts of political theatre, since he managed to keep both Mr Carswell’s and Mr Reckless’ defections secret - thus maximising the political advantage from both.
Mr Cameron’s nightmare now is that a succession of other Conservatives could follow the two MPs’ lead over coming months - destabilising the Conservatives as they prepare for next May’s general election.
He said he was quitting the Conservatives because he could not honour the promises he made in the 2010 general election to his Kent electorate on the deficit, on immigration, political reform and the EU referendum.
“None of these promises have been honoured,” he declared, pointing out that immigration last year to the UK ran at 243,000 rather than “the tens of thousands” the Conservatives said it would be running at by now.
Four years ago, Mr Reckless won his seat with 23,604 votes - 49 per cent of the votes cast, while Labour’s candidate Teresa Murray was significantly behind, with 13,651 votes.
Urging Ukip members to come and help him win the by-election, Mr Reckless said a victory for Ukip in the by-election to come in Rochester would show that the party “can win anywhere”.