David Cameron rocked by Ukip defection and sex scandal
Furious Tories have turned their fire on ex-MP Mark Reckless, with David Cameron branding his defection to Ukip "senseless and counter-productive" while party chairman Grant Shapps told activists: "He lied and lied and lied again."
The Rochester MP's switch to Nigel Farage's party, coupled with the resignation of Government minister Brooks Newmark over a sex scandal, cast a shadow over the final Conservative conference before the 2015 general election.
The Prime Minister suffered a further blow by former party treasurer Lord Ashcroft, who found Labour was heading for a "comfortable working majority" next May. Mr Cameron insisted yesterday he would not argue for continued EU membership in a referendum if it was not in the national interest.
But he stopped short of saying he could campaign for a No vote if his planned renegotiation fails to deliver the required reforms to the terms of UK membership, despite being given several opportunities to do so on BBC1's Andrew Marr Show.
Restating his determination to renegotiate the UK's relationship with Brussels, with a focus on changing immigration rules, Mr Cameron told Marr: "If I don't achieve that, it will be for the British public to decide whether to stay in or get out. I have said this all my political life: if I thought that it wasn't in Britain's interest to be in the EU, I wouldn't argue for us to be in it."
He acknowledged Mr Reckless' departure made a Conservative government "less likely" after 2015.
Mr Newmark admitted he had been "a complete fool" after allegedly sending X-rated pictures of himself over the internet to an undercover reporter posing as a Tory PR girl.
The 56-year-old married father-of-five, who resigned as minister for civil society after learning that a paper was about to publish details of their exchanges, told ITV News: "I have been a complete fool. I have no-one to blame but myself."