At the largest UKIP party conference there has ever been there was need of a sensational announcement. They got one in the shape of former Conservative MP Mark Reckless. There has been another defection.
Reckless will become the second Conservative MP to switch allegiances this month, along with his former colleague; and Clacton MP, Douglas Carswel whol made the switch at the end of August and triggered a by-election.
Bounding on to the stage to a reception he would not have expected; Reckless said David Cameron was “part of the problem that is holding our country back”. He continued on to say “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.”
Reckless, who is one of the most Eurosceptic MP’s, called the prime minister’s pledge to hold a referendum on Britain’s involvement in the EU as no more than a “party political trick”.
He said: “A UKIP which can do for our politics, what modernity has done for our society, a UKIP which is about hope and optimism, a UKIP which can safeguard our children’s future and a UKIP which believes we are more than a star on somebody else’s flag.” This could be referring to the “special relationship” that the UK has with America and how Reckless feels we have become little more than a lapdog for the United States.
The announcement was also timed so as to cause maximum damage to the Conservative party ahead of their own conference in the coming days. As UKIP members chanting “UKIP, UKIP, UKIP” and cheered, a party source commented: “Enjoy your conference, Mr Cameron.”
Unlike in the case of Douglas Carswell, the Conservatives seemed almost prepared to deal with the defection. Reckless does not hold his constituency as tightly as Carswell did. Andrew Griffiths speaking on behalf of the Conservatives said “Told Mr Reckless he should join Ukip four years ago! Pleased not to have him speaking for my party anymore. Relishing that election fight!” Carswell is expected to cruise through the by-election triggered by his resignation but there is nowhere near the same support in Rochester as there is in Clacton.
The fact that another Conservative has decided to turn away from the sitting government though has to be worrying for David Cameron and the Conservative party. The support that comes from further to the right of the political spectrum has now settled on UKIP. The election next year is looking increasingly likely to produce seats for UKIP and lost seats for the Conservatives.
UKIP have become a threat to the Conservatives. They need to be taken seriously and they will have to address the losses they are suffering both at the party conference but more importantly to their constituents. UKIP have changed the political landscape in the past year and look increasingly likely to keep changing that map. The election next year is becoming the most exciting and unpredictable we will have seen in years, we shall have to wait and see what happens to this new political world we now live in.