Richard Barnes, the former right hand man to Mayor of London Boris Johnson, has become the latest high profile Conservative to defect to Ukip. Last night his former boss accused Ukip defectors of being the type to have sex with vacuum cleaners. This morning Mr Barnes declared that he was moving to Ukip because the other parties did not “speak the language of normal people,” the Evening Standard has reported.
Mr Barnes was personally appointed Deputy Mayor of London by Johnson in 2008, becoming the first LGBT person to hold the post. He remained in place until he lost his seat to Labour in the 2012 elections. When it was put to Mr Barnes that Ukip was a homophobic party as one Ukip councillor had blamed last winter’s floods on Prime Minister David Cameron’s gay marriage policy, he was dismissive, saying “I’ll stand my ground against any prat. They are in all the parties. I don’t think they become homophobic the moment they join Ukip.”
Mr Barnes explained that he was defecting because the Conservatives could not be trusted on Europe, because the government is failing to tackle immigration, and because the Westminster parties are out of touch with ordinary people.
On Cameron’s plans to renegotiate a treaty with the rest of the EU before 2017, Mr Barnes labelled the idea as “unrealistic”, saying “Do we really believe they can create a new settlement by 2017, with the agreement of all the member states. It’s just unrealistic. There has to be more clarity and it’s not there at the moment.” Instead he would like to see the UK pull out of the EU entirely and form a free trade agreement with the rest of Europe. His thinking on this is therefore in-line with Ukip policy, but at odds with his former leader David Cameron, who on the weekend reiterated his commitment to keeping the UK inside the EU.
On immigration he told the Standard “Our borders are massively porous. Immigration is a good idea, but it has to bring a benefit to our economic, social and cultural life. It cannot be to take advantage of the NHS or to exploit the benefits system. At the moment it’s a mess. We don’t count people in, or count them out. That would be a good place to start.”
He continued “There seems to be a detachment from ordinary people’s lives in the Westminster Village. The parties just don’t seem to relate and talk the language of normal people.”
The move is unlikely to win the support of Boris Johnson, who, whilst addressing a Conservative Rally last night titled How we win in 2015, said “The EU commission wants to ban vacuum cleaners on the grounds that they are too powerful. If you do not handle your vacuum cleaner correctly, you may end up inhaling the hamster – the budgerigar through the bars of the cage.
“And I have read that there are some people – probably the type who are thinking of defecting to UKIP – who present themselves at A&E with barely credible injuries sustained through vacuum cleaner abuse.”
The defection is the second high profile move from the Conservatives to Ukip, after Mark Reckless’s announcement at Ukip conference on Saturday that he too would be changing parties, resigning his seat and forcing a by-election in his constituency. He follows in the footsteps of Douglas Carswell, who is due to go to the polls in Clacton on October 9th after invoking the same plan. Both Members of Parliament said that they had had a damascene moment in which they realised that Cameron planned to secure just enough measures in a European renegotiation to persuade the people of Britain to vote to stay in the EU. Both men are committed to seeing the UK leave the EU.
Making his announcement, Mr Reckless said “It’s a decision I make from optimism. A decision that is born of belief that Britain can be better, of my knowledge of how the Westminster parties hold us back, but also of my belief in the fresh start UKIP offers.”