28 Sep 2014

Tories hijack Reckless and Farage event in Rochester

It was meant to be Mark Reckless’s triumphant return.  He came back to Rochester this morning accompanied by his new party leader Nigel Farage, to raise the Ukip standard in this historic Roman and medieval city.

Ukip planned this would be the start of their by-election campaign, another Clacton, hoping to terrify Conservatives around the country as they start their party conference in Birmingham.

Only local Tories – angry at what they see as Mark Reckless’s deception and treachery – fought back this morning.  In numbers, and with great success.

28_reckless_wThe first sign of the Tory operation came on the high street when we bumped into Craig McKinlay, a local Conservative councillor who is fighting Nigel Farage in Thanet South at the next election.  Mr McKinlay was briefly acting leader of Ukip some years ago, and deputy leader for many years, (before switching to the Tories), so knows a thing or two about defections.  He was keen to tell us what a traitor Mr Reckless was.

Then a man in a bright pink T-shirt approached us and was keen to do an interview.  He said he was called Philip Ruby, and was chairman, he said, of the Rochester Residents’ Association.  Reckless had been a hopeless MP, he said, and done nothing to help residents tackle the problem of late-night drunkenness on Rochester High Street.

This, Mr Ruby suggested, was because of Reckless’s own problems with drink.  When I pressed as to what he meant he referred to the time in 2010, when Mark Reckless missed a late-night Commons vote on the Finance Bill because, the MP said at the time, he was too drunk.

Ukip had asked the media to turn up at the Crown Inn at noon.  When we got there just before midday we found Reckless talking to a man at the bar who said he was extremely upset with the MP (or former MP, to be accurate) for defecting.

He had admired his work as an MP, but told Reckless he was doing the wrong thing.  Then a string of other people in the pub all said the same thing.  The flow of opinion seemed to be too much in one direction to be true.


Outside a woman introduced herself as a Conservative activist.  There were around 30 Tory colleagues in and around the pub she said, such was the strength of feeling in the local party about what Reckless had done.  And she confirmed that the man in the pink T-shirt whom we’d spoken to was one of them.

It left journalists with a dilemma.  Which of the several people we’d spoken to – voicing strong views against Reckless – were organised Conservatives, and which were genuine, random, local voters?

Unlike Clacton, I think Mark Reckless might struggle to win Rochester at the by-election expected in a few weeks’ time.  He doesn’t seem to have the same personal vote as Douglas Carswell in Clacton.

Much will depend on what Labour does.  Will they run a token campaign, as in Newark and Clacton, and let Ukip and the Tories slug it out?  That, I suspect, will be the inclination of the very cautious party Labour has become under Ed Miliband.

But if Labour put up a proper fight – as they have done in Blair’s day – they could win Rochester.  It was, after all,   a Labour seat until 2010 (with Bob Marshall-Andrews as their MP).

But for Labour to win would rather underline the point Tories are making – that defections to Ukip merely help Ed Miliband and Labour.

 Follow Michael Crick on Twitter: @MichaelLCrick

22 reader comments

  1. mrs w says:

    Mark Reckless must have been well aware of the hatred his defection would whip up among the local Torys…he made a courageous decision and should be applauded for his honesty. Name calling and attempts at smearing Mr Reckless,s good name only goes to show how low some people will stoop.

    1. Barbara says:

      Well, as it happens Mr Reckless (what a suiting name) loves his drink as well. So Mr Farage should be in good company. Who can TRUST any politician? They are ALL carpet beggars.

  2. Jen says:

    Sour grapes by an unpopular Tory Party this will do them no good at all. Well done and thankyou Mark Reckless for being conscientious and moving to the better party for our country. The Tories can sling all the mus they like as they did at the Euro elections but it won’t do them an ounce of good as UKIP have integrity and have shown themselves to be bigger than insults that are thrown at them by past it and out of touch parties.

    1. Alex says:

      Integrity… yes. This would be the man who was campaigning for the Tories in the same week as his defection, the man who not only denied the fact he was going to defection, but acitivly saught to mislead his supposed allies. Yes, I get he can’t say – ‘I might defect’, when asked. Saying ‘no I won’t’ is a hell of a lot different to phoning Grant Chaps a day before the defection promising to be in Birmingham to campaign with Tory activists.

      He timed his defection to best sabotage the Tory conference… how do you EXPECT the Tories to react? Spreading lies as you do that this is typical Tories – you are wrong. Carswell’s defection proves this – the Conservatives saw that he was an honourable as could be. He didn’t lie, he didn’t stab his party in the back.

      Farage and Reckless were expecting a warm welcome in Rochester like they had in Clacton. They were wrong. Sheer arrogance to simply take such support for granted. In that UKIP are NO DIFFERENT to the 3 main parties.

      1. D Stockford says:

        He moved to UKIP, as he is entitled to do, during the UKIP conference. In what way is that a problem?

        He then chose to give the electorate a chance to have their say. Is he required not to, like liblabcon have always done?

        UKIP don’t and haven’t expected to win his seat – though we’d like to.

        I suppose UKIP ‘s problem is that we’re not liblabcon. How dare we be another party!

  3. sam says:

    Will someone please make a Mr Men character, ‘Mr Reckless’.

    1. June Shone says:

      as opposed to our three leaders, hopeless, hapless and helpless?

  4. Dave D says:

    Mrs W, you can admire Mr Reckless in the same way you would a kamikaze pilot – he has effectively ended his political career for what he believes in; he may have been courageous for his decision but he has done it at the expense of those who supported him – he deserves the criticism, he deserves the public outcry, he deserves to face those that have voted him in, only to find that he doesn’t represent what they wanted – he has no good name, he never did; he was “too drunk” to vote in a key decision on the budget, he has done little or nothing for the people in his constituency, and now he has turned their backs on them. He has no “good name”, and now he has no career. Good riddance.

  5. Michael says:

    I think anyone who jumps ship/ party to cause a by- election should not be allowed to stand in the next election. What would we think if our soldiers swaped camp, they would be hangs for treasion.

  6. Thomas Evans says:

    Reckless and Carswell have made the morally correct decision going to the only party in Britain who didn’t break party promises to their constituents and haven’t consistently let people down.

    The Tory Party made liars out of Carswell and Reckless when they didn’t allow them to keep the promises they made when they originally got elected.

    This aggressive attempt to infiltrate a event by some local Tories in Rochester will hopefully open voters and councilors eyes to the real nature of the Tory Party.

    The Tory Party have been learning bad habits from Labour and other parties who send thugs out to shout down anyone else with a differing opinion.

    UKIP have my and my family vote in West Sussex.

    I hope others watch this especially in Rochester and decide the same

    1. Philip says:

      On the other hand, it’s fair to say UKIP have never been in a position to break their promises to the electorate…..ditto the LibDems until they had to face the realities of government, constrained by lots of inconvenient facts which politicians like to ignore when making their promises. Besides, until very recently UKIP have only had one policy commitment – to leave the EU.
      I can perfectly understand why many people are flocking to UKIP because of the sameness, blandness of the leadership of the main parties & their failure to understand that there is a world beyond Westminster. But their main issue is based on a high degree of assumptions & wishful thinking (cf Alex Salmond) and actually fails to address most of the more pressing & important issues facing the country.

    2. fleche_dor says:

      UKIP have used the megaphone to aggressively shout down opponents, politely talking to voters in my area for over a decade. Sounds like the Tories are giving them a taste of their own medicine.

  7. Simon :) says:

    I love the way the tories stand around blithely accusing others of being “lairs” without any sense of irony……

  8. Brian Otridge says:

    Until we see the first publicised constituency poll, and until the parties start looking at their canvassing returns, we just don’t know.

    What is certain is that in the Euro elections, this was the result in Medway (which covers Mark’s constituency plus one and a half others):

    UKIP 27,265
    Con 15,043
    Lab 12,448

    This was one of the highest UKIP majorities in the country in that election.

    Also, “An Independence from Europe” got 1702, many of which were by their positioning at the top of a long ballot paper, and confusion in some voter’s minds with UKIP.

  9. Stewart says:

    A foolish, out of touch man in a foolish, out of touch party. Reckless has let his constituents down and lied to anybody and everybody. Why can he or anyone else in UKIP or the tories be trusted? They are tearing themselves apart over an irrelevance. What Rochester needs is jobs, housing and local services, not two bald political parties fighting over a comb. Labour should fight and defeat them both as they’re the only party with any thought for ordinary people. Reckless, Farrago and all their ilk are the kind of bankers and money men who catapulted us into the financial crisis. now they expect us to vote for them? Away with you!

  10. Steve Cheney says:

    “The flow of opinion seemed to be too much in one direction to be true.”

    Why so? UKIP aren’t as popular as the media had made them out to be, and of the majority who don’t plan to vote for them, a lot REALLY don’t like them.

    So it shouldn’t be surprising that people who voted for one party are angry at their MP for defecting to a party that is so widely hated by the majority of people in this country, and especially one that has set itself up in opposition to the party they *did* vote for!

    It’s possible that this was co-ordinated, I don’t know, I wasn’t there. But I wouldn’t assume it on that basis. Social media allows people to co-ordinate amongst themselves – agreeing to be there at the same place at the same time. That does not make the way they feel any less genuine or “true”.

  11. Jon Wood says:

    Hardly surprising that Reckless kept his defection secret from the Tories – that way the predictable mudslinging didn’t start until after the announcement. For Shapps & Co to make a big deal of this highlights their desperation. If he’s as rubbish as they belatedly claim, they’ll be happy to be shot of him. I smell fear.

  12. steven says:

    Remember boys and girls, ALL critique of the amazing UKIP is “smears”. They are anti establishment. Who says? UKIP do, and the establishment. Politicians and the establishment don’t like and spin Orwellian bibble, so it must be so.

    Never mind that their policies are all establishment, that’s detail and detail is leftie smears.

    “Tory joins other tory party” really isn’t such big news,

  13. Mrs K says:

    What a poor show by the local Conservative party. The constituency is far bigger than just Rochester High Street and it has been typical over the years that this ‘Tourist Attraction’ high street feels it should be the focus of attention. Just across the bridge is the rather downmarket Strood, it’s main road lined with Lidls and B & Q’s in sharp contrast. Further out in the rural area of the Hoo Peninsular, Mark Reckless has been tireless in his campaigning against Governmental plans to concrete over vast tracts of of SSSI and build thousands of homes, while the small villages are now overflowing onto the highway and no extra services or infrastructure are in place to accommodate the expected influx. Reckless has a lot of support in these areas and so, by the way, does UKIP. As for MacKinlay, he should be in Thanet and get over himself. He left UKIP and sour grapes spring to mind. These Tories need to ask themselves whether they are for the party or the people

  14. Ryan Evans says:

    He has resigned as an MP and is standing for reelection as a UKIP candidate. He is giving the Rochester electors the chance to vote for him or against him. Sour grapes from disappointed Tory activists, but he has not tried to cling on to his seat under his new banner. Therefore no problem.

  15. Rochester Resident says:

    “With Mr Miliband opposed to letting the British people decide themselves, we must challenge Mr Farage to declare his hand: is he ready to thwart Tory candidates who will deliver a referendum, and instead allow a Brussels-loving Labour Party to rule?

    If so, he should be honest with his supporters now and admit he is happy to help Mr Miliband through the door of No10, with all the dangers that poses to our economy.”

    Mark Reckless 24/5/14

  16. Nigel Wilson says:

    It seems almost an episode from Pickwick Papers.

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