The Parties | 29th September 2014

Which Tory MPs have defected to Ukip and who else might?

Rumours abound that a third Tory MP is set to flee the party in […]

Photo: Getty


Rumours abound that a third Tory MP is set to flee the party in the next 24 hours, with some speculating that an announcement may even be made during Cameron’s speech on Tuesday.

Here is a look at the two MPs to have defected thus far, and five others who may join them.

DEFECTED: Douglas Carswell (Clacton)

The 43-year-old Carswell once stood against Tony Blair in Sedgefield for the party he recently left. He fared well, if unsuccessfully, and managed to find a seat in 2005, taking Harwich from Labour by fewer than 1,000 votes.

Since then he has focused on reforming the political system. In contravention of parliamentary practice, he spearheaded a year-long campaign to dethrone Michael Martin, the previous speaker, in 2008-09, and then led calls for an EU referendum until Cameron consented in 2013.

Carswell spearheaded a year-long campaign to dethrone Michael Martin, the previous speaker, in 2008-09.

His independent spirit has been praised by the centre-right press – Spectator, Economist and Telegraph. And he is close political friends with Daniel Hannan, the MEP and columnist for the latter. Their manifesto, The Plan: Twelve Months to Renew Britain, purportedly inspired the Coalition’s commitment to open primaries, recalling MPs, and directly elected police commissioners.

Now his ideas as guiding Ukip. He was one of five MPs the party did not stand against, and practically campaigned for, in 2010. But, with his Clacton constituency among the more economically deprived in Britain, and his fear that Cameron would never appropriately tackle EU or political reform, he defected last month.

DEFECTED: Mark Reckless (Rochester and Strood)

Reckless’ defection looks obvious in retrospect. While Carswell leds calls for an EU referendum, Reckless led the rebellion against its budget in 2012. While Carswell collaborated with Hannan, Reckless was his best man. When Carswell defected Reckless lost one of his closest intellectual allies in the party.

Both are public schoolboys in their early 40s (Carswell attended Charterhouse, Reckless Marlborough).And both briefly worked for party headquarters in the early 2000s, with Reckless championing the directly elected police commissioners that Carswell later endorsed.

But only Reckless trod the quintessential establishment path – Oxford, Columbia Business, financial services, law school. And he took longer than Carswell to find a seat, finally being elected in 2010 after failing short by just 213 votes in 2005 – his second loss. Most importantly, he has little of Carswell’s personal following: his re-election is far from assured.

POSSIBLE: Chris Kelly (Dudley South)

Kelly, 36, was seen as one of the new crop of Conservative MPs when he was elected in 2010, but last month announced he would standing down after just one term. The move scuppered his hopes of winning £500,000 – while at university he and fellow MP Justin Tomlinson each bet they would become Prime Minister by 2038 at odds of 10,000 to 1.

Now party insiders fear he could defect for the remainder of his term. He would be Ukip’s first grammar school-educated MP, and another relatively youthful addition to the party. He, like Reckless, trained at business school, but helped run his family’s truck dealership in West Bromwich rather than serving the City. Nadine Dorries, whose daughter he dates, has publicly warned him against leaving.

UPDATE: Kelly has publicly denied rumours he will defect. UKIP may still feel hopeful of capturing the seat in 2015 – they garnered 8.2 per cent in Dudley South in 2010.

POSSIBLE: Brian Binley (Northampton South)

Binley is another retiring MP albeit of a very different generation. If he defected he would end his 55-year membership of the party. He has been a Conservative longer than David Cameron has been alive – is talk of a defection unfounded?

He has written dismissively of Cameron’s cadre in the past – “the new zealots [supposedly] knew all the answers” – and sympathised with Ukippers. He evidently thinks the party should turn to the right not the left, but has always spoken of convincing defectors to “return to the fold”, rather than joining them.

While he is twice as old as Kelly, he only joined the House in 2005, when he was 63, having founded and built up a customer service business throughout the 1990s.

POSSIBLE: Philip Davies (Shipley)

Like Carswell and Reckless, Davies is an early 1970s child and serial party rebel. After a history degree at Huddersfield he joined Asda in 1993, where he worked in customer services and marketing. He also worked at a bookmakers, giving him a more varied background than many in the Tory hierachy.

He won a seat at the second attempt in 2005, and soon committed to broadcasting from the backbenches. From there he has launched many attacks on the Coalition, rating as one of the chamber’s most rebellious MPs. He opposes the softening of security laws, favours lower tax rates, and once argued disabled people should work for below minimum wage.

Davies’s father, Peter Davies, served as Mayor of Doncaster for the English Democrats from 2009 to 2013.

If Davies defected he could turn to his father for advice on representing fringe parties. Peter Davies served as Mayor of Doncaster, home of Ukip’s conference this year, for the English Democrats from 2009 to 2013.

Davies was one of the few MPs Ukip did not field a candidate against in 2010. Their support helped him to a majority of nearly 10,000, but he won the seat by scarcely 500 votes in 2005.

POSSIBLE: Philip Holloborne (Kettering)

Like Davies, Holloborne is one of the Tories’ most rebellious MPs. He was a contemporary of Nigel Farage’s at school, and a member of the Monday Club at Oxford, a group whom IDS disassociated the party from in 2001 after its repeatedly derogatory remarks on the repatriation of non-white British immigrants.

Holloborne may find Ukip offers more likeminded MPs. Victoria Ayling, Ukip’s candidate for Great Grimsby, has aired similar views. In a similar spirit Holloborne described the burqa as like “going round wearing a paper bag over your head”. He has advocated for its ban, as well as the reintroduction of the death penalty and privatisation of the BBC.

Unusually for an MP, he moonlights as a special constable for the British Transport Police, and served in the Territorial Army for eight years. If he did defect, it is unclear how much of the 49.1 per cent he won in 2010 was a vote for him or his party, but the BNP and English Democrats won nearly 5 per cent in his seat, and may turn into Ukip voters in 2015.

POSSIBLE: Michael Fabricant (Lichfield)

Fabricant’s hair makes him conspicuous in the House. If he defected to Ukip it would help make him ubiquitous in the press. Defecting would also win him a profile he hasn’t had since he suggested a pact with Ukip in late 2012 when part of the party’s electoral machine. He used a widely discredited measure of Ukipper appeal to suggest they cost the Tories 21 seats in 2005 (they cost them closer to 5).

He has since had to resign from his role, and his warning of Ukip’s rise has led some to tab him for defection. A trained econometrician, he spent the Thatcher years in finance before moving into local Tory politics in 1990. He won Lichfield by just 238 votes in 1997, but now holds a majority of nearly 18,000. He may have enough local support to hold onto his seat under a purple banner, but, as a self-declared moderniser, Fabricant may want to keep his voice – and hair – in the Tory tent.