Why I am leaving the Conservative party and joining UKIP

Today, I am leaving the Conservative Party and joining UKIP.

These decisions are never easy. Mine certainly hasn’t been. Many have been the sleepless nights when I have talked it over with my wife and thought about the future of our children.

But my decision is born of optimism, conviction Britain can be better, knowledge of how the Westminster parties hold us back, and belief in the fresh start UKIP offers.

We all know the problem with British politics. People feel disconnected from Westminster.

In fact, “disconnected” is too mild a word. People feel ignored, taken-for-granted, over-taxed, over-regulated, ripped off and lied-to.

And they have reason to.

MPs, with some honourable exceptions act, not as local representatives, but as agents of the political class. Too many focus, not on championing their constituents’ interests at Westminster, but on championing their parties’ interests in their constituencies.

We’ve even evolved a special vocabulary to talk about the way MPs betray their constituents’ interests. We talk of politicians being “brave” or “mature”, “pragmatic” or “realistic”. But they’re all euphemisms for the same thing: breaking your election pledges.

Well, I can still remember the promises I made in Rochester and Strood at the last election, and I intend to keep them.

I promised we would cut immigration. I promised we would deal with the deficit and then bring down taxes. I promised we would localise decisions, including over housing numbers. I promised more open and accountable politics. Above all, I promised to help get Britain out of the EU.

And shall I tell you something? I’ve found that it’s impossible to keep those promises as a Conservative. That is why I am joining UKIP.

I haven’t reached this decision lightly. I’ve been a Conservative for as long as I remember. I have friends across that party, in Parliament and in the constituency. I hope some will remain friends.

I don’t doubt the patriotism of Conservative volunteers and supporters. But I’m afraid that my party leadership is now part of Britain’s problem.

Let me return to those promises I made in Rochester and Strood.

I promised at the last election, as did every other Conservative candidate, that we would cut net immigration from the hundreds of thousands a year to just tens of thousands. The reality is that in the last year 243,000 more people came to this country than left, back up to the levels we saw under Labour.

I’m not someone who is always and everywhere against immigration. It takes guts and energy to cross half the world in search of a better life, and I support a sensible amount of controlled, legal immigration.

But if my constituents are asked to accept the case for some immigration, they want to feel, in return that we are in control of whom we are admitting and in what numbers. And we have no such sense today.

The insanity of our migration rules mean that second generation Britons in my constituency have huge difficulties just

to bring granny over for a wedding, let alone marry someone from abroad themselves, yet they see our borders open to unlimited numbers of EU migrants.

Does anyone, on Left or Right, genuinely support an immigration system where we turn away the best and brightest from our Commonwealth, who have links and family here, in order to make way for unskilled workers from Southern and Eastern Europe.

I promised to cut immigration, while treating people fairly and humanely. I cannot keep that promise as a Conservative. I can keep it as UKIP.

I also promised that we would make government live within its means, just like the rest of us have to.

Instead, we are adding more to the national debt in just five years than even Labour managed over 13 years.

And two weeks ago the three Westminster parties have just committed themselves to giving every Scot £1,600 more a year indefinitely.

I promised to restore order to our public finances. I cannot keep that promise as a Conservative. I can keep it as UKIP.

I also promised to put my constituents’ interests first and return power from the centre to our locality.

In particular we promised to do away with Labour’s top-down housing targets that forced us to concrete over our green fields.

Yet, now I find that, under government pressure, our Conservative council in Medway is increasing its housing target from the annual 815 we had under Labour, to at least 1,000 every year.

Despite the promised EU referendum, it is assumed that current rates of open door EU immigration will continue for at least twenty years.

In my constituency that means they are giving permission to build 5,000 houses in a bird sanctuary on the Hoo Peninsula, despite it having the highest level of environmental protection as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. If that goes ahead, where will it stop?

I promised to protect our rural Hoo Peninsula. I cannot keep that promise as a Conservative. I can keep it as UKIP.

I also promised to help make government more open and accountable, so MPs would answer outwards to their constituents, not inwards to their Whips.

David Cameron and his government promised to cut the number of MPs, give Parliament its own timetable, offer free votes in bill committees, have 200 postal open primaries, and bring in Recall for voters to sack MPs.

Yet, not one of those promised reforms has happened.

I promised political reform. I cannot keep that promise as a Conservative. I can keep it as UKIP.

And, of course, I promised to give people a vote on leaving the EU. When I voted that way in the Commons, along with 110 other MPs from various parties, we had three-line Whips against us from all three party leaderships.

Since then, David Cameron has promised a referendum. But I’m afraid I’ve reluctantly reached the view that he is doing so purely as a device. He has already preordained his intended outcome, namely continued membership of the EU on something very close to the current terms. Everything else is for show.

What the prime minister has in mind – it’s not even a secret at Westminster – is modelled on what Harold Wilson did in 1975, a bogus renegotiation followed by a loaded referendum.

David Cameron, and all levels of government backed with taxpayers’ cash, would pretend the terms of membership were radically reformed, when in reality little or nothing would change.

A referendum should be a solemn and binding moment. A reminder to politicians that we work for the rest of the country. It shouldn’t be a party-political trick, a way to paper over cracks, or a way to buy yourself time.

I believe the question now is, not if we get a referendum, but when and on what terms. So, why should we accept terms loaded against us?

In this hall we want a straight referendum. An honest question. In or Out. No fudge, no conjuring trick, no sleight of hand, no fake renegotiation, no pretended new terms. Just a clear choice between EU membership and an independent Britain, trading with Europe but governing ourselves.

Every vote for UKIP, every MP for UKIP, means a better chance of getting that straight, fair referendum. If you vote UKIP, you get UKIP.

I promised a straight In/Out Referendum. I can’t keep that promise as a Conservative. I can keep it as UKIP.

And when we get that referendum, I want us to make the case for British independence in warm, optimistic language. We are not backward-looking or gloomy, still less xenophobic. The only nostalgia I see is the nostalgia of those Euro-enthusiasts who cling to their 1950s vision of a United States of Europe.

In almost every other field of politics, we have moved on. We no longer believe, as we did in the 1950s, that big conglomerates are the future, that the expansion of government is benign, or that economies needed to be planned.

But the EU remains a child of its time, wedded to its five-year plans, its unelected commissioners, its common workplace entitlements, its fixed prices, its corporatism, its lobbying cartels.

That is why Europe is the world’s only declining continent.

It’s therefore not nostalgia that makes us Eurosceptics. It’s optimism. We understand how much greater Britain could be if we raised our eyes to wider horizons.

All of you in the hall already know this. But I want our friends watching through the media to understand it, too. UKIP is a positive party with a positive vision. We believe in a global Britain, prosperous, independent and free. We believe in a Britain of opportunity we would be proud to leave our children.

Before I conclude, I want to invite you to come to my constituency. And I may need you even more than Douglas because Rochester and Strood is not Clacton.

Matthew Goodwin, the leading academic to study UKIP, says Rochester and Strood is not even in the top 100 Conservative constituencies vulnerable to UKIP.

I am proud to represent many ambitious professionals, aspirational families and young commuters. And by the way, if any of you are watching now, I hope you will be voting for me.

In Rochester we have a castle and a cathedral. We’ve a lovely high street full of independent shops. There are French patisseries and Italian delicatessens. We are less than an hour from London and just two hours from France.

Matthew Parris would love it.

But, just as Douglas Carswell answers to his constituents in Clacton, I answer to the constituents I serve in Rochester and Strood.

They are my boss. And, if I want to represent them under different colours, I hope in a party closer to their values, then I should ask their permission.

So, I will resign my seat in Parliament, trigger a by-election and, your National Executive allowing, stand for UKIP.

And I need you to join my campaign because, if we can win in Rochester and Strood, as well as Clacton, and perhaps here in South Yorkshire then we will show that UKIP can break through across the country. We will show once and for all that if you vote UKIP, you get UKIP.

A UKIP which can do for politics, what modernity has done for society. A UKIP which is about hope and optimism. A UKIP which can safeguard our children’s future. A UKIP which believes we are more than a star on somebody else’s flag.

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26 responses to “Why I am leaving the Conservative party and joining UKIP

  1. A very brave and honourable decision mark. I’m glad there are still politicians in Westminster with the courage of their convictions.

  2. Interesting assessment of Conservative pledges and delivery – they have also wrecked criminal justice and particularly probation which is already unravelling – almost no MPs, not belonging to an Opposition party did anything to protect the structure that has helped keep folk safer than they would have been without probation. What will your stance be now?

    I fail to see why Conservatives will issue a writ for a by election – it was crass of them to do it for Clacton, I fail to understand why they should not delay as long as parliament will allow and thus frustrate you and give themselves a better chance of having a familiar candidate when the Rochester election eventually happens.

  3. Mark Coates-Robinson

    I have been highly critical of Mark, but strangely this act of defection works well in my mind.
    The Scottish referendum proved we are not a cohesive nation.
    UKIP can exploit this.
    Good luck Mr Reckless. Irony intended.

  4. You did a brave and honorable thing Reckless. I salute you!

  5. Congratulations Mark you have my vote that much easier next year I have had enough of the other party’s promises and I wish you luck for the next elections

  6. UKIP need to throw everything at R&S bus as many ppl in as possible you deserve to win we all knew that camerons promise of a ref was a ploy we need enough UKIP MPs to make either Tory or Lab have a ref b4 end of 15.

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  8. Shocked and surprised, well done mate! a big change in British politics this way comes. I feel privileged to be witnessing it. UKIP must be the new party.. British politics have been swinging from left to right, back and forth since WW2, boom and bust. Nobodies got it right. Labour always leave owing loads of money, Tories come in and pay it back and we all pay, so we vote in another labour and the country goes broke again. Time for a change, Time to do stuff and not just talk about it. You have my vote.

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  10. Great news Mark, as a tory I would never have supported you, but its good to see there are a few politicians with the courage to act. You will now have my full support and vote.

  11. Brave, to stand up for what you believe and and suffer the media and scorn from others and resign your job to boot is extremely worthy right or wrong. Mr Cameron says you wont be missed he fails to see how the rest of the country sees it outside his cosy little group. The timing and the actual act was nothing short of devastating and brilliant. Hold your head up high you have done nothing shameful. Mr Cameron should be asking why. Sort of makes you proud to be British.

  12. Many many congratulations, a wonderful surprise followed by a wonderful speech at Doncaster. The country is proud of you (or will be when they eventually realise the significance of what is going on). We’ll come and help in R&S.

  13. Well done Mark. Welcome to UKIP.

  14. Fortune favour’s the brave and you certainly are BRAVE. Best wishes from a Ukip member in Italy.

  15. Good on you ……can’t wait to vote for you.

  16. From what I see of twitter (although I do not subscribe) the support for your decision is overwhelming, you must feel both very encouraged and very proud.

  17. Astounding arrogance from the Tories to suppose that what matters is the outraged sensibilities of the Party as opposed to those of the electorate. Lied to? Now they know how I feel – and everyone else, I suspect! I’ve waited all my life for the Conservatives to make good their promises to me but they never have! From amongst the great litany of lies peddled to me over time one fat lie in particular, concerning Inheritance Tax, was a bridge too far for me! Ditched as the price of power before Cameron entered No: 10! Trumping even the lies is the destruction of our country, the cavalier treatment of the nation and our culture, the failure to protect our borders and the willingness to continue to do so. I long for the return of principle and conviction in politics. To have remained with them, in the certainty that you lie to your constituents when you know the Party will renege on its pledges, is the greater betrayal. I’m next door in Gillingham and If I could I would vote for you. I hope there is a UKIP candidate I can vote for in May. The very best of luck, Mr. Reckless. You did the right thing!

  18. I wish you well Mark, you have done many helping things for the people of Strood&Rochester. I did not agree with the airport decision because i was not asked, regeneration is needed in Medway. Can you really trust councils and most politcians in today’s world the straight answer is no. I like Mr Farage he is a down to earth person and speaks his mind. You have my support.

  19. Reblogged this on Tallbloke's Talkshop and commented:
    .
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    First Doug Carswell and now Mark Reckless have left the Conservative party to join UKIP. Is the message getting through yet Mr Cameron?

  20. The reform we need across the democratic world is not capitalism or free-market per se. It is a reform that leaders say what they will do and then do it, and once it is done take the responsibility and accountability for having done it.

    The current mode of saying whatever is useful under the idea that muddling through, pragmatism, “realism” (i.e. powerful vested interests will not allow it) and horse-trading in secret is how things are accomplished, goes back to before the Roman Senate gave us stories of betrayal, corruption and megalomania. It would be nice to think that at some point openness and honesty would be two factors that our governors believe we, the governed, are entitled to.

  21. I am a Brit living in the USA and have voted in every election since 1993 when my wife and I were granted US citizenship.

    We won’t be voting in any more elections as it makes no difference which party is elected. Both parties serve themselves (the power elite) while ignoring the will of the people.

    If we had the like of UKIP here we would return to the voting booths. There is a third party called the Libertarians but they have failed to put a manifesto together that can address the harm that the Democrats and Republicans are doing to this country.

  22. Mark
    It took considerable courage to do what you did, and I congratulate you on your stance.
    May I show how I think this Country is now a broken society, a divided society under David Cameron, a society where the Tory mantra of “Property before People” is flourishing, and where Money, and the pursuit of Money, comes before all else.
    A recent case concerned one of the jobless, David Clapson. Although he was actively seeking work he was sanctioned by his local Benefit office and his money stopped. He therefore had no money and could not buy any food. When he was no longer seen, they broke into his apartment and found him dead in his armchair. At the subsequent post-mortem, they found no stomach contents. He had starved to death.
    As a contrast, consider the recent IPO of Royal Mail. It is now generally agreed it was undervalued and those who could buy, and subsequently sell, vast numbers of shares could make millions. This happened with the Banks, they were involved in setting the value, but the same banks were also allocated millions of shares. So on that morning they were able to Bank 8.5 million profit in their offshore accounts by selling their shares. Vince Cable, before the day of the offering suggested that the big allocation of shares were “not for spivs and speculators”. Naturally he was unavailable for comment on the day.

    To me this provides an apt Summary of David Cameron’s “Big Society”, what a load of rubbish that phrase is when you consider these cases. And also how money matters, but human life is of no consequence under the Tories. I shall be voting UKIP at the GE.

    • The chap had also been in the armed forces. It is no less a scandal than Rochdale and heads should roll. The basic lay out of this country is 5 years of misery for half the country followed by 5 years of misery for the other half. That’s some United Kingdom we have there. The Tories have borrowed and borrowed and borrowed us into so much debt its frightening. Labour well ok they didn’t do as bad but what they did do was open a door then went their merry way without a second thought of who would come through that door. I don’t blame the likes of David Beckham or Rooney for accepting half a million a week for kicking a ball about I tend to blame the idiots that offered it. Rumanians trying to get by on a fiver a week are going to see greener grass I am sure I would. Like Enoch Powell said by all means bring people here but first make sure we have the services to cope and we currently don’t really have the services to cope with our own never mind Europe’s. Firm rules are needed in many walks of life the selling of public assets, try asking the people first they actually own it its not the governments to sell. The Banks need proper regulation as does the media, stop pussy footing around them. We pay for services we make deposits at the bank we buy newspapers but we don’t get a say? An old soldier has died a very sad and lonely death for the sake of £70 This country need to hold its head in shame for a very very long time. I do hope Mr Farage can make a difference we need something new, hope as much as anything hope for something a little better. Sure he might make mistakes but if he is honest and open about it rather than lying about how good it is I for one can handle that. How many billions have been wasted on worthless schemes and governments have ploughed on regardless. I would much rather some one say hey its not going to work lets back track a little. I would much rather someone say hey this isn’t politically correct but unfortunately its right. I shall not only be voting UKIP I hope to stand I want a better future for my boys than I have had and I cannot see that happening under either Tory or Labour. They will only have the same future I have had because the policies will be the same. Pubs have closed the center of many communities you wanted a plumber you saw Fred down at the pub, it was often a job center ”hey there’s a job going at our place get there tomorrow and ask to see Jimmy” factories have closed and moved to China creating a desert within the UK. We have little industry produce little quality. We had some of the finest steel,cars,ships, ok times change but people do too and we as a nation can still produce given the chance. Lets put a little pride back into this country, People were often poor but they always had pride they no longer have. We cannot rely on the football team mores the pity we need something or someone who can restore it and someone who can give a little hope.

  23. Just heard this great news. Well done. Someone else brave enough to put integrity before career and be prepared to put up with the evil-speaking of former colleagues locked into the mirage that is the ‘Conservative’ Party and who actually believe Cameron’s ‘promise’ of a referendum. Let’s hope and pray that many more MPs from all the other parties see through the LibLabCon trick.

  24. Mark Coates-Robinson

    It shows Cameron is rattled, when he turns to personal remarks, Obviously we can’t rock the boat enough.
    Make Cameron most unwelcome when he appears in R & C.
    Take along your vacuum cleaner or a friend if your shy.

  25. Although I cannot agree will all your opinions,I applaud your attempt to become a politician who stands behind his convictions.The last 30 Years of Westminster politics has become and endless avalanche of spin and misinformation designed to confuse the electorate.

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