Reckless defection 'stunt' blasted
Former Conservative MP Mark Reckless's defection has been described as "a stunt to get maximum publicity for the Ukip machine" less than two weeks before a by-election for his former seat.
Mr Reckless is seen defending his decision to quit the Tories during a debate with the five main candidates for a BBC South East Special: The Battle for Rochester and Strood despite Green candidate Clive Gregory criticising him for triggering a by-election just six months before a general election.
Mr Gregory claims the former MP's resignation was "incredibly cynical" and "clearly designed as a stunt" which he says is "an absolute disgrace".
But Mr Reckless, who is hoping to regain the Rochester and Strood constituency on November 20 as a Ukip MP, said one of the reasons he defected is because he believes the Conservatives are not serious about renegotiating the UK's relationship with the European Union.
He told the debate he had "changed his mind" about the Tories being the only party which could deliver an in/out referendum on Europe because he had "come to the conclusion that David Cameron is simply not serious about this".
He said: "David Cameron could probably get some changes round the edges on benefits but the main issue is the unlimited number of people who can come from these countries and come and work in the United Kingdom."
But Conservative candidate Kelly Tolhurst asked Mr Reckless why he had not "stuck behind this Conservative-led government to allow David Cameron to have that renegotiation to try to achieve the things you say you want?"
Mr Reckless replied: "Because I don't believe David Cameron and the Conservatives are credible on Europe."
He also told the debate, which took place on Saturday, that he had defected because he did not feel the Conservatives were keeping the promises they made in 2010 to cut the deficit and had failed to lower immigration.
He said: "Having taken that decision that I couldn't keep the promises I made in 2010 as a Conservative but I could with Ukip, I switched to Ukip, and I felt it was right to hold a by-election because I was elected with people who had voted for me as a Conservative candidate.
"Therefore, I felt the only honourable thing to do was to ask people in a by-election for their permission as to whether I could carry on representing them as Ukip."
He said he and former Tory MP Douglas Carswell, who became Ukip's first elected MP in Clacton, Essex, following a by-election last month, were the only two MPs in 30 years to resign their seats and put the decision to voters.
:: The Battle for Rochester and Strood : A BBC South East Special will be broadcast on BBC1 in the South East on Monday at 10.35pm.