Ukip May Pick Up One More Defector Before Election, Farage Hints

Gareth Fuller/PA
Gareth Fuller/PA

A Conservative member of Parliament is in talks with Ukip’s leader Nigel Farage about a possible defection, it has emerged, and may cross sides before the general election. A further defection before May could help Ukip sustain momentum in the run up to polling day, but Farage is sanguine, telling reporters that “it is not very relevant now”.

Westminster was rocked last Autumn by the double defection of two Conservative MPs to Ukip. First Douglas Carswell, then Mark Reckless announced their intentions to resign their seats and fight by-elections under their new party banner. Both men won, becoming Ukip’s first two elected Members of Parliament.

At the time, it was disclosed had been in talks with a number of members of parliament, both Conservative and Labour, about possible defections. On the evening of his re-election, Mark Reckless confirmed that he had personally spoken to two Conservative members about the possibility of defection.

Any MP who defects at this late stage is unlikely to trigger a by-election before the general election. Nevertheless, it would undermine the Conservatives at exactly the wrong moment for their campaign, causing a loss of morale in their ranks at the very moment they need to be upbeat about their party.

Speaking to the Telegraph at his party’s spring conference in Margate, Farage said “The last time I spoke about this [further defections] I said I would be surprised if there were not more. There is one conversation we are still having. But do you know what – it is not very relevant now. Last year it was a big deal.”

He reiterated his pledge to support a minority Conservative government on a confidence and supply basis. Ukip is understood to have had talks with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party which may lead to the two parties forming a negotiating bloc. The two parties already enjoy an amicable relationship in the European Parliament.

And he said that his unique selling point is that he is far more down to earth than his political rivals. “I have had the most knocks in life. My selling point is that I have been part of the real world, I have had a job, I have run a company, I have had more ups and downs in life than most.

“I think these are assets in politics. Perhaps as a result of my background I am a little less fearful than the others to talk about things that the others run away from,” he said.