September 29, 2014 by Paul Goldsmith
Mark Reckless’s reputation as a Eurosceptic was such that in 2010, before he had ever won a seat in a Parliament, UKIP decided not to field a candidate against him in the general election, figuring that having someone like him as a Conservative MP was better than taking votes from him, meaning he could possibly lose once again by a small margin to a Labour candidate. From yesterday, UKIP won’t have to field a candidate against Mark Reckless ever again, because he will stand in an upcoming by-election and the General Election in 2015 as a UKIP candidate.
This development will surprise few people, as he was always on many lists for the next to defect to UKIP. He had rebelled against the government on a wide variety of issues, voting against them on tuition fees and for a Labour motion to cut the EU budget. He sent out 45000 ballot papers in his constituency to have their own EU referendum (most of the 3500 ballots returned said the UK should leave). He was best man at Daniel Hannan, the outspoken Eurosceptic and libertarian MEP’s wedding, and Hannan was best man at his. Hannan noted that Reckless organised his stag night in Iceland, specifically because it was outside the EU. He and Douglas Carswell, who defected to UKIP earlier this month, are close friends, both also believing in the need for tax cuts (of the type UKIP announced at their recent conference – more of that later this week). What was a surprise was that there was nothing on the rumour mill about his defection. It is believed and reported that Michael Gove, the current Tory chief Whip, had taken him to lunch after Douglas Carswell’s defection to try and persuade him not to defect, but despite Gove’s love of using the press to make his point, nothing came out of that.
Reckless is very clear why he has left the Tories. He believes that even if David Cameron doesn’t manage to negotiate successfully to change EU laws and how they affect the UK, he will STILL campaign to stay in the EU. This is a prescient accusation, given Cameron, in an interview for the Sunday Times today, cannot seem to envisage any situation in which he would campaign against EU membership. Therefore, Reckless, like Carswell, wants to be in a position where he is free to campaign for the UK to exit the EU, which is more possible from UKIP. He wants to be able to do that from within the House of Commons as a UKIP MP, and the upcoming by election gives him a chance to do that.
But again, this is also about making it less likely that the Conservatives under David Cameron can win a majority, or even the highest number of seats, in the 2015 election. If that happens, the EU referendum will definitely go ahead, as the Conservatives are only party to have promised one. If THAT happens, it is looking like Britain will stay in the EU, as Cameron and the governing party will be campaigning for it to do so, whatever the outcome of the re-negotiations. Given the backing of the government, it will be difficult for any ‘OUT’ campaign to win, and if that happens, it will be about another 40 years until another referendum can happen. Constitutionally, Britain cannot leave the EU without a referendum, so it is in UKIP’s interests to delay the referendum until it is most likely that there will be an OUT vote.
Five years of an ‘IN at any costs’ Labour government will be their best chance of this happening. By 2020, the public’s attitude to the EU may be so negative that a party of OUT could gain major traction in the General election. So, by replacing Conservative seats with UKIP seats, Reckless, Carswell and what I believe to be up to 20 others now considering their position, can make it more likely Labour will win, and therefore more likely their strategy will come to fruition.
If Reckless wins his by-election, in a constituency in which he has a 9500 majority, so it is likely, that will be the catalyst for quite a few more defections to UKIP. Once they gain a foothold in the Commons. I believe that they will have the confidence to form a separate party, made up of UKIP MPs and right wing Tory MPs. They could get enough people in this possibly to even force a new a General election, but it is more likely that the realignment of parties will lead to a situation where the 2020 election will look very, very different.