Speaking on Channel 4 News, Mark Reckless highlights the “extraordinarily impressive” national manifesto launched today.
Tag Archives: Labour
Speaking to Andrew Neil on the BBC’s Daily Politics, Mark Reckless discusses the appalling case of child sexual abuse in Rotherham.
In Parliament today I asked the following question:
Mark Reckless (Rochester and Strood) (UKIP):
When the Home Affairs Committee investigated child sexual abuse in Rochdale and in Rotherham, we did see a difference: there was at least some action in Rochdale, but we found complete denial in Rotherham, so I support the thrust of the intervention.
Even if single-party Labour control may not have caused what happened, it did allow it. Until UKIP broke through there in the local elections last year, there was virtually no party political competition in Rotherham. Pending the 2016 all-out elections, will the May 2015 elections go ahead to allow us to continue to hold the Labour councillors responsible to account at the ballot box?
I fought hard to ensure that the Home Affairs Select Committee condemned Rotherham Council in the strongest possible terms for allowing industrial scale child sexual abuse. I also argued that we should contrast how badly it behaved with other councils, such as Rochdale, which at least tired to learn where they had gone wrong so they could improve.
Our report was published twenty months ago http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmhaff/68/6802.htm
Why did Labour not clean out its stables then? Why did Conservative ministers allow a further year and a half plus to elapse before today’s statement? Should we not have been hearing those questions and answers to them today? Instead we had these apparently mutually congratulatory exchanges between the minister and MPs including three Labour MPs who represent Rotherham Borough http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/hansard/commons/todays-commons-debates/read/unknown/283/
However, now that his Department has finally caught up, this is how Eric Pickles responded when I asked my question:
The hon. Gentleman makes a very reasonable point about the way Rochdale approached this. The May 2015 elections will take place. However, let me say to him that this is about people’s lives. This is about protecting children; it is not about whether some grubby politician is elected or not. If we seek to turn this into some kind of political football, we will be as bad as the failing councillors of Rotherham, and I am determined that that should not be the case.
Because I referred to our holding Labour Councillors to account at the ballot box, is Eric Pickles saying I am “as bad as the failing councillors of Rotherham”? Can it really be that a cosy cartel of Labour and Conservative politicians has so lost its moral compass as to think that?
I wish I had been able to ask Mr Pickles at the time, except I couldn’t as I wasn’t allowed to hear his response, and instead had to wait three hours to read it in Hansard. The best I could do at the time was to put on record the behaviour of some of the Labour MPs who shouted down my effort to call their party to account:
Mark Reckless (Rochester and Strood) (UKIP):
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) was shouting in my ear, so I did not hear the Secretary of State’s answer to my question—will councillors elected in Rotherham in 2011 be held to account at the ballot box in May, or is the Secretary of State extending their term by a year?
I appreciate that. I think the Secretary of State did give a clear answer, although I understand the hon. Gentleman’s point. It is a perfectly reasonable question and I am sure the Secretary of State is happy to repeat his answer.
The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr Eric Pickles):
The 2015 elections continue as normal.
As always, there’s nothing which quite gets one’s own mind moving so much like standing on a voter’s doorstep, ringing the bell, waiting to see who answers if it’s the first-time visiting the address, and then doing your best to give as detailed and as helpful as possible an answer to whatever the question might be. There’s plenty from the last couple of days of the campaign that I’d like to mention in this occasional account of it all which I’m keeping as I go. There’s rather a lot just from the last couple of days but rest assured – I won’t try to put down every last word of it. Thank the Conservative leadership in London for the extra one or two weeks this campaign will run for, testing a natural resource not known for its abundance, namely patience with politician’s words.
If you’re passing through this page for the details of the big get-together of first-time and seasoned UKIP campaigners alike, gathering for this Saturday’s action day throughout Rochester & Strood, everything you need to know to be there and help out can be found through the last of the entries in this campaign round-up.
When I have to choose between talking to a journalist in the office, or talking to a constituent on the doorstep or around the kitchen table, it’s a very easy decision to choose the latter. One of the refreshing changes you notice when you join UKIP from the Conservatives is that the UKIP HQ runs on a skeleton staff of hands-off supporters who let the candidate get on with things without endless interference. Nobody gives the impression of owning all the box sets of the West Wing, and if I might allow myself what would be a fairly considerable understatement, that was never the impression I had when the far from understaffed Conservative Central Headquarters was on manoeuvres or on my back. Anyone who had been hoping to throw their hat in the ring here for selection as candidate by the Rochester & Strood Conservative Association, only to learn from the papers before they ever had a chance to do so that a choice of just two hand-picked names had been imposed on the ‘open’ primary, might possibly now have some inkling of why I reached the decision I did.
Journalists ask questions to try to learn things, naturally. But you learn a few things by paying a bit of attention the other way – to the questions you’re asked yourself and the telltale signs that someone might not be quite as up-to-speed on the local issues as suggested.
For a lot of people, our constituency here in Rochester & Strood might as well simply be named Rochester, for all the love and care some neighbourhoods of Strood receive. I say that because, as is very obvious from the questions some journalists choose after five minutes in Rochester and a walk up the High Street from the train station to the campaign shop, the social reality of life away from postcard-perfect bookshops and a cathedral with a vey fine choir is all too easily overlooked. I don’t mean any great criticism of the press pack when I say this, and it’s always a pleasure to chat about our area’s heritage, but no constituency is necessarily spared hardship or difficulties just because it has loveable old-fashioned tea shops and a Norman castle. I’ll happily talk about King John as often as I have to, though – notwithstanding the excellent efforts of our local historical organisations – I sometimes wonder if we’re doing as much as we could to hand down our island story.
Or, for that matter, to talk about the lack of apprenticeships, the challenges facing young people starting out in the world of work, the victims of globalisation left behind by decisions made not just outside their own country but several hours flying time away, or those who have worked and paid taxes all their lives and yet who struggle with something perilously close to poverty in retirement, if not indeed the appalling, authentic real thing.
I was very glad indeed to introduce UKIP leader Nigel Farage to an area that hums with activity while reminding one that the constituency is no mere dormitory town connected to the City. He had a great time in Strood and stayed until he had done the whole tour of the market, which is no small task when so many people want to shake his hand these days wherever it is he appears. And I gather the queue in the corridors of Westminster to do exactly that was more than respectable in Monday. Mr Farage popped up in the Commons gallery to watch my friend of twenty years’ standing Douglas Carswell become our party’s first elected MP. This was Nigel and myself just two days previously in the market:
From the local market to the local bird sanctuary in Tuesday. Many of local opponents want to build 5,000 new homes over the environmentally critical local site of special scientific interest that forms a crucial part of the constituency’s environmental diversity. Anyone properly familiar with the issues knows that the Lodge Hill development here is bitterly opposed by local residents. I know this isn’t the sort of future I want for the Hoo Peninsula either. I’m not surprised that a handful of my political competitors have been caught trying to spin a speech I gave in Parliament as some sort of unequivocal endorsement of the project. My top concern when on my feet in the House of Commons that day was to make the case for local decisions being taken in local communities, aligned with the wishes of local people. Unfortunately, you couldn’t say that any of those are things that the Conservatives have delivered for the people – or the birds – of our constituency’s peninsula.
I made a point of promising a positive campaign on local issues when I set out to try to do this, so I’m doubly glad that the anger of local residents, focused on a single breathtakingly poorly planned development, was given very considerable exposure in TV on a day that did a lot to raise the profile of the peninsula and the constituency. We had three camera crews present. After that, it was next door for baked potato with cheese and baked beans in the Working Men’s club. The clip on the Channel 4 website about all this naturally doesn’t all go my way – in politics, as so many people pointed out long before me, you have to be both a realist and a idealist – but it gives you a sense of what Tuesday was all about, and indeed, the sheer size of our ad van in the area.
If you had a look the clip in the post above, you might have seen Councillor Chris Irvine doing a really good job of explaining why residents living locally here are so utterly opposed to this indefensible project. As Sarah Linney details for Kent News in the article at the end of the next link, Chris was one of three former members of the Conservative party who eventually had enough of the Conservative leadership found a welcoming perch aboard UKIP.
As of only very recently, for the first time really since Michael Howard, we’re starting to hear a lot from senior Conservatives about migration. For a very long time, that was far short of being a daily occurrence. Several key members collaborated with the Blairite dictates to suppress and silence all dissent from the policy of mass migration into Europe.
Some of the suggestions are even reasonably sensible on their own terms, or at least would be, if they didn’t all run up against the complete necessity of rescuing ourselves from European project first. How many senior Conservatives are truly prepared to campaign for British exit if David Cameron is on the other side, as he would be, come hell or high water?
Saturday’s campaign launch with Douglas Carswell and Nigel Farage is still very fresh in memory. All parties have at least a trace of tribal instinct, but as we stepped out of the campaign shop on the High Street, it felt a lot like a family day out as well.
I would love to see just as much goodwill and good-natured campaigning at this Saturday’s action day, no matter how negative any of my opponents chooses to go. The other parties may not be able to win the argument any more, but they’re still able to turn up the heat.
Whether it’s your first time on a political campaign or you’ve worn down plenty of shoe leather over the years, do come, be there, be part of it. I was not prepared to remain the MP for a party that betrayed my commitments and the trust of those who voted for me. Nor was I prepared to move without putting that decision before the people locally to make the final call. But we cannot let David Cameron’s Conservatives kill dead at Rochester the political change that could soon come to many places in the country. The UKIP message is the best of Britain and the future of Britain. Let’s take it to the doorsteps this Saturday.
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.
We inquired into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham 18 months ago and were strongly critical of Rotherham Council and South Yorkshire Police, as we saw little evidence of their accepting and addressing their failings, unlike in Rochdale.
We were extremely unimpressed today with the past and present leadership of South Yorkshire Police and required them to give evidence under oath.
Martin Kimber, Rotherham’s Chief Executive became the latest in a long line of senior figures to resign just before a hearing with the Home Affairs Select Committee.
Unfortunately, however, Joyce Thacker, their head of Childrens’ Services, continues to fail to take responsibility for her failings. In my view these are perhaps the most egregious of anyone involved, except of course for the perpetrators themselves, but for now clings to her post, pay and pension.
Surely public service should be about more than that?
As a Committee though I am proud of what we have achieved in seeking to hold properly to account people who are meant to serve the public.
Since being elected in 2010 I have worked hard to represent all of the people in my Rochester and Strood constituency, irrespective of who they backed at the election, and notwithstanding how party whips may have wanted me to vote. I have consistently campaigned for an In/Out EU referendum, and was delighted when my constituency referendum – the first anywhere in the country – saw nearly 80% agree with me that Britain should be an independent country, trading with Europe, but governing ourselves and controlling our borders. I am delighted that other Conservative MPs have followed this initiative, showing that only Conservatives will give the people a say on our membership of the European Union.
The news that Conservative MP Bob Neill had placed high enough in the Private Members ballot of MPs last week and was determined to introduce a bill in this parliament legislating for an EU referendum, came as welcome news. As someone who has long campaigned for a vote on our membership I relish every opportunity to reaffirm that in the voting lobbies in Parliament. Though my Conservative colleague James Wharton MP was thwarted in his attempt to put an EU referendum on the statue books by unelected Lib Dem and Labour peers, I believe this time we may get our way.
Only a few weeks on from the European Union elections where a majority of those votes cast were for pro-referendum parties, many in SW1 have learnt that taking the voters for granted has a cost. With the news today that the Liberal Democrats could be about to U-turn in favour of matching the Prime Minister’s In/Out EU referendum pledge, and may even support Bob Neill MP’s Private Members ballot, it will leave the Labour party as the only party denying the British public and a majority of their voters a say. It is now surely a question of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ the British people get an In/Out vote and I am delighted, as with all major decisions affecting our lives, it is the Conservative party which is leading the way.
Locally the Conservatives in Medway have a history of standing up to the EU. In 2011 whilst still a councillor I brought a resolution to the chamber – which successfully passed – calling upon the three Conservative Medway MPs to not support an increase in the EU budget. How can it be right that whilst Medway receives a reduction in its financial settlement, our contribution to the EU increases by 60% over two years? It was this local vote which paved the way a year later for my amendment in Parliament calling for a real-terms cut in the 2014-2020 EU budget. This was the first time the coalition government had been defeated and delivered the first ever cut in the EU budget.
Supported by my local Conservative councillors we, for the first time anywhere in the country, gave our voters a say on our membership of the European Union. I am delighted that the nearly 80% of the thousands of people who took part in my Rochester and Strood In/Out EU referendum believe as I do, that Britain can have a positive future for Britain outside of the EU. Only Conservatives can and will deliver a referendum on our membership of the EU and myself and my local councillor colleagues will fight for you to have that say.