Tories turn on Ukip defector

WILLIAM Hague has told of his disappointment at the Ukip defector who “clearly lied to us” for weeks.

Tory defector Mark Reckless (second left) and Ukip leader Nigel Farage have a drink in the Crown Public House in Rochester.
Tory defector Mark Reckless (second left) and Ukip leader Nigel Farage have a drink in the Crown Public House in Rochester.

The senior Conservative MP said he was confident the party would still be able to get its pre-election message across as the Tories gathered in Birmingham yesterday, although he admitted he did not know if there were more Ukip shocks due.

Mr Hague was speaking the day after former Tory MP Mark Reckless announced he will step down and fight a by-election as a Ukip candidate.

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The Rochester and Strood MP has revealed he was never directly asked by party whips if he was likely to follow Douglas Carswell and resign from the party, even though many in Westminster were openly speculation he was next.

Mr Hague, the Leader of the House, said that rather than being disappointed with the whips office, it showed the extent of Mr Reckless’ deceit.

He said: “Mark Reckless made public statements on the record - not just anything privately within the party but pubic statements that he would be supporting David Cameron and the Conservatives to get a referendum.

“That of course is the right position. Clearly he wasn’t telling the truth about that, he lied to us.

“He said he would be coming to this conference, I think he made plenty of statements of that kind. I don’t know what he would have said to whips or not.

“The main thing is that it is a totally self-defeating thing to do.

“Anybody who wants a referendum on Europe as he says he does, needs to vote Conservative at the next election and helping Ed Miliband would mean there isn’t a referendum on Europe. It’s a choice at the next election.”

Mr Hague said he had no indication that anyone else was planning to defect.

Also joining the attack on Mr Reckless was party chairman Grant Shapps, who told delegates at the party conference that he shared their “deep sense of betrayal and anger.”

He said: “We have been let down by somebody who has repeatedly lied to his constituents, and to you. He said one thing, and then did another.

“Last month, he looked us in the eye, and said only our Prime Minister could secure a say for the British people on Europe.

“Last week, he insisted he would be campaigning for an outright Conservative victory.

“Two days ago, he was busy leaving phone messages, claiming he was enthusiastic about joining us to campaign here in Birmingham today.

“He lied and he lied and he lied.”

But while many Tories have spoken of their anger, others have questioned what the party has to do to prevent further Ukip damage.

Senior backbencher David Davis said the Conservatives need to start acting like “real Tories” again. The veteran right-winger said that under David Cameron the party had undergone the “wrong sort of modernisation”, alienating its natural supporters.

“What it has done, it has let a lot of people become disaffected with Conservative politics. About a quarter of people have left us since the general election - three-quarters of those have gone to Ukip,” he told BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

“You have to be real Tories. We need to take a far more robust stance on a whole series of policies.

“Conservative policies that have worked for a couple of hundred years and haven’t stopped working yet.”