|Defector: Mark Reckless.|
For sometime I had believed that although stridently anti-EU and having rebelled against Coalition line time and again, Mark Reckless was Conservative through and through but his position would have meant that UKIP would be unlikely to win in Rochester and Strood in 2015 and would do very little to dent his voter base.
I totally hadn't considered that he would defect.
Apparently I wasn't the only one.
I've exceptionally mixed views about defection. Although it is noble to follow one's belief to whatever end it can have some pretty nasty ramifications. A long while ago I wrote:
It is a decision that no one should take lightly, a decision that should be thought through thoroughly and not rushed. After all... like [Benedict] Arnold, once you've left you can never go back and some bridges can never be unburnt, for you will always be a turncoat.
According to Mark's website he has thought this through extensively, something I can well believe (I had a similar experience once) and ultimately came to this decision. He lists these reasons in depth in his article but ultimately it boils down to electoral promises and frustrations that he could not represent the people of Rochester and Strood as a Conservative anymore.
My previous prediction for the General Election in Medway was for UKIP not to bother standing a candidate as Mark was pretty much in that ground anyway... However this defection is going to shift the dynamic a whole lot more.
Earlier today I saw statistics that suggested that Mark will get re-elected easily based on the percentage of people in the Medway Council area who voted UKIP. If I remember correctly that despite being true across the region it was not the case in the Rochester & Strood wards. These wards mostly voted Conservative.
So we could see the return of a Conservative MP rather than Mark's re-election?
The Conservatives in Medway have been divided between the Rainhams and the Rochesters for quite some time and this defection could be the tumbling of small stones that sets of an avalanche. Already Councillor Chris Irvine, who is exceptionally close to Mark and works for him at Westminster, has quit the Conservative party and according to his twitter stream, will be consulting the residents of his ward as to what they would like him to do. If more were to follow...
We could see a larger UKIP powerbase with vast local experience than expected in the old Cathedral city.
This could also be Labour's big chance. The Medway towns have been swing seats for some time and although I had postulated that Mark would come through unscathed that was before the right vote was completely bisected. Naushabah Kahn, the Labour candidate for Rochester and Strood, has been making ground recently. Feelings against the Coalition do run high across Medway and they may be enough for her to capitalise on it, especially for a local girl who is talking about the things that matter to the working person who doesn't care as much about the EU as they do the NHS or Immigration as much as they do cut services. According to Medway Labour's Press release Ms Kahn stated;
With such division in the Medway Tory party, it’s clear that there is only one choice in Medway for the progressive, fair vote and that is Labour. We have a 10 year plan to save the NHS, including the extra resource of 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 more GPs and 5,000 more careworkers. In Rochester and Strood, we have a choice between a Labour party that will save the NHS or a Tory party that is in a race with UKIP to the far-right
Usual Party stuff but it is a sentiment that will draw people in.
Who knows, all I can say is that Medway is about to become really interesting politically over the next few months and part of me really laments my retirement which starts as of tomorrow.
I hope someone is going to cover this properly.
Just as a postscript and returning to the Benedict Arnold post and burned bridges, there is a sense of betrayal among some locals, be it electorate that voted Conservative and suddenly find a UKIP foothold in their constituency, local Conservatives who have seen all their hard work in supporting Mark thrown away, and also colleagues.
Indeed Tracey Crouch, MP for Chatham & Aylesford was quoted as saying (and sums up the feeling for local Conservatives);
He looked me in the eye and promised me he wasn't going to defect. I feel very angry and let down.