I have deliberately been reserved (though not completely silent) on the matter of Mark Reckless's defection from the Conservatives to the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). With what has happened since, and pressure from a few to put something on the record 'lest I be perceived as fudging it', here is the complete scenario in several parts. It will be quite long, but I hope will make for worthwhile reading. Let's start at the beginning...
Was it a surprise when Mark Reckless jumped ship?
Not really. Once his good buddy of many years, Douglas Carswell, made the jump, I immediately surmised that Mark would follow after Douglas had checked out 'the lie of the land', so to speak. Indeed, I suspect they had been planning all of this for some time.
Thus, when I was out that day to pay a courtesy visit to an event in the Lower Lines Park in Gillingham, and local Labour councillor Adam Price came up to me and announced that Mark's jump was just then being rumoured, I simply said to him 'So there goes another one!" as casually as you like. It was no great surprise to me.
Was he ever a true Conservative?
Probably not. The Spectator realised this back in 2005, when they supported all but one of the then Conservative candidates – the exception being Mark Reckless. They even wrote an open letter to the the Labour incumbent Bob Marsahall-Andrews, saying that he was 'more of a Conservative than Mark Reckless.'
I was never taken in either. Although I didn't know of that letter at the time (in fact, not until a few weeks ago!) when I was involved in the final three rounds of the candidate selection process for the 2010 General Election, I never once voted for him. Too shifty and calculating, his body language and voice spoke volumes to me...
Why was it timed thus?
The crucial factor was calling the by-election; and within six months of a General Election (either anticipated, or now – with fixed Parliamentary terms – a near-certain date) it is not required to hold a by-election, so it had to be at least a little over that time.
Fortunately for him, this fitted in well with the UKIP conference dates, so he was able to sneak off to Doncaster and make his announcement there, while still just over six months before the scheduled General Election date.
Why have a by-election at all?
It costs a six-figure sum and causes disruption and inconvenience.
There has been no real answer provided to this. There has certainly been no compelling reason offered to show why this suddenly became 'necessary' or even desirable. The correct way to have handled it would have been for Mark Reckless to resign the Conservative whip and sat as an Independent MP for the remaining six months, stating his intention to re-stand next May but for UKIP.
That would have been the honourable thing to do.
Failing that, he could have taken the same route as he has, but letting everyone who needed to know in advance. Instead, as several sources have reported (and it is easy to deduce from events) he lied to people's faces, and simply walked away from his constituency business, leaving those with enquiries and other matters with his office completely in the dark as to what was going to happen.
I had a few of those on to me, asking if I could intervene (a lot of people around here don't know that I am no longer active in the party or on the Council) in order that their business could be handled – but Tracey Crouch picked up the pieces and has taken over all that casework. With some advance warning, Tracey might have had a chance to recruit additional staff to help manage this doubled workload for the duration, but that obviously never came into the Reckless consciousness. He had simply abandoned them...
As far as the by-election per se is concerned, Mark could hardly avoid it once he had decided not to just resign the Whip, as Douglas had already gone the resignation/by-election route and it would have been really awkward for Mark not to do the same. The precedent had been set.
Why did he do it?
We might never know the true, full answer to that; but from what has happened, how it was done and his behaviour both before and after, we can deduce far and away the most likely reason. This also fits in with what Douglas Carswell did, and that was probably for exactly the same reason.
When you're out here in the constituency, you are the 'big fish in the pond'.
When you get to the House of Commons and are surrounded by hundreds of others in your own party, you feel much smaller. Now, many of those are getting promotions while you are being left behind.
As well-reputed 'rebels' Messrs Carswell and Reckless will obviously have realised that they were consigned to careers spent entirely on the backbenches while they remain in a party where they are considered to be 'malcontents' or similar, and where there is plenty of choice to fill vacancies on promotion.
As the same-size fish in a tiny pond, they will now have much greater prominence (assuming Mark gets re-elected, which might well happen, at least for this six-month spell) and will be their new party's official spokesmen on this, that and everything else. Even if there should be an influx of UKIP MPs next May (unlikely, but not impossible) they will be entrenched and established. They will keep their positions.
Thus we can see why they took this particular route. If they had not been specifically 'UKIP MPs' until next May, they'd be vying with any other new UKIP electees for position. Thus the bottom line is, and always was, personal ambition. Principles probably never really came into it, apparent from perhaps incidentally, despite the hype. I'd say this scenario is a near-certainty, and the way they handled it shows this very clearly, once one takes a few moments to analyse it all.
Will he get back in?
Possibly. The local electorate still haven't yet fully woken up to the error they made with the Police and Crime Commissioner – though, as I have mentioned before (and confided to several people for more a good two years) that is happening. I suspect they'll make exactly the same mistake again, falling for the easy and oh-so-convenient sales pitch and the (pseudo!) 'non-establishment' line in particular. Of course it's all nonsense, but the public-at-large don't get it – not yet...
So, why are UKIP doing so well in polls and various elections?
This one is easy, but it needs some recent historical knowledge within the punditry to fully understand.
Once Ed[ward] Miliband became the Labour party leader, everyone and his dog immediately realised that Labour were not going to be able to win the next General Election on their own mettle. It was therefore around that time, realising that the Liberal Democrats were now a spent force and seeing their ratings plummet, that those with a specifically anti-Conservative agenda started looking for an alternative approach.
Shortly after, some influential sources started pushing UKIP very, very hard – and some of us noticed this at the time and since. I could name names here, but will merely drop a hint to one such: 'PB'. It is obvious that these pundits and similar were building-up UKIP a long way beyond their actual standing at the time or their unaided future prospects.
The reasoning was simple: they were purportedly right-wing and anti-EU (yet they had, and have, plenty of MEPs blissfully taking all the allowances and expenses they can get their hands on, while putting in little if any effort – one of their MEPs has a 9% attendance record, and even Nigel Farage's figure is just 37%) though much of this is deception. As if to point that up, they are also almost exclusively anti-Conservative: they very rarely have a go at any other specific party.
Thus they were an ideal choice for those with a suitably meshing agenda, especially those sources purporting to be 'non-party supporting', and the rest has become history. It is all very easy to see in retrospect, of course, when one analyses what has been going on under our noses.
And there we have it: there is more (a lot more, in fact) but this is long enough, I think. No doubt I shall get 'Kipper trolls doing what they always do – but they are transparent. I have operated on facts that are in the news and on the record. They are going to have a hard time with this, as they will know that what I have written is either essentially or entirely correct. I shall not be passing any comments that are either diversionary or seek to demean the messenger (i..e. me) as they are the two most common methods of the dishonest. No-one honest ever uses either approach!