Reckless set to win second Commons seat for Ukip
Easy win expected for former Tory MP despite immigration row
Mark Reckless, UKIP candidate for Rochester and Strood, is surrounded by the media as he visits Hoo Riverside near Rochester on the final day of campaigning.
The UK Independence Party is set to win its second seat in the House of Commons in a month, despite a last-minute controversy over whether it would expel European Union citizens.
Former Conservative MP Mark Reckless, who provoked the Rochester and Strood byelection by quitting his seat, is expected to win easily under the Ukip banner when voters in the Kent constituency go to the polls today.
On Tuesday Mr Reckless told an election hustings that EU citizens who had not integrated would be deported once the UK had quit the European Union. His remarks prompted hurried attempts at clarification.
Party leader Nigel Farage said EU migrants who had come to the UK legally would have the right to remain even if the EU “was to behave badly” in the two years of negotiations that would follow a referendum vote to quit.
Mr Reckless, who is half- Irish on his mother’s side, excluded the Irish, telling the Irish Post: “People have moved around these islands since time immemorial, and Irish people are welcome in the UK under long-standing bilateral arrangements.”
His remarks proved an unwelcome distraction for the Ukip leadership, which had wanted to spend the last day of campaigning targeting the immigration policies of the Conservatives and Labour.
“It’s very simple: if somebody is here legally, regardless of where they’ve come from, they stay here. There’s no issue about suddenly going to deport them or anything like that,” Ms James said.
When questioned, Mr Reckless said that a Polish plumber who had lived in the constituency with his family could be issued with limited “fixed period” work permits, while those who who had been “here a long time and integrated” would be looked at sympathetically.
Mr Reckless, who claimed that the Conservatives had linked immigration to crime figures during the byelection, said he was astonished that they had tried to “twist”’ his comments about work permits.
“I made it very clear that we would expect such people to be able to stay, and this has been wrongly twisted by the Conservatives. I said people who were integrated,” he said.
Under Mr Reckless’s proposal, which he had not fully fleshed out, immigrants who have children in school, who have been in Britain for a long time and who are working, would be considered to have integrated.
The rapidly changing public debate on immigration is reflected in tougher measures proposed by the Labour Party to curb abuses by foreigners.
In reality, the controversy will do little harm, and may even help Mr Reckless’s campaign in Rochester and Strood, where immigration has been one of the key issues for voters.
Questioned by the Irish Post about his own background, the Ukip candidate, whose mother emigrated from Sligo at 17 to train as a nurse, said the Irish in Britain are “not immigrants. I don’t consider myself to have an immigrant background.
“I don’t see my Irish mother as an immigrant any more than I see my Scottish wife as one.”