Northamptonshire’s Euro MP Roger Helmer has announced that he is leaving the Conservative Party and joining the United Kingdom Independence Party.
Helmer has cited ‘serious policy disagreements’ with the Tories as the main driving force behind his decision and announced his intention to quit on the day of UKIP’s Spring Conference in Skegness.
He said: “The fact is that UKIP represents the values and interests of East Midlands Conservatives much better than Cameron’s Tory Party does. “I believe I can do a better job representing those views and interests as a member of UKIP than I could in the Tory Party.
“The European project is collapsing before our eyes, yet the three main parties remain wedded to the Brussels dream. UKIP is the only party which is ahead of the curve on this issue, and on other issues as well”.
Helmer was due to stand down as a Euro MP in December but stayed on after controversy over his preferred replacement, close friend Rupert Matthews. Senior Tory officials cast doubt over the Mr Matthews’ credentials due to his strong interest with ghosts and the paranormal and Mr Helmer pledged to fight his corner.
But, following Mr Helmer’s defection to UKIP it now appears that Mr Matthews will no longer have the opportunity to represent the East Midlands in Brussels.
Mr Helmer outlined the reasons behind his decision in a letter to former colleagues in the Conservative Party.
I am writing to let you know that after a great deal of thought, and much heart-searching, I have decided to leave the Conservative Party, and to join the United Kingdom Independence Party.
After decades with the Conservative Party, this has been a tough decision to take. I well understand that many of my friends and colleagues in the Party will greet the news with dismay, and I greatly regret that.
In recent months my increasingly tenuous relationship with the Party has been predicated primarily on people, not policies, and I cherish the hope that at least some of the good friendships I have made within the Party, both in the East Midlands and in Brussels, over my dozen years as an MEP, will survive my change of allegiance.
Peter Oborne has described UKIP as “The Conservative Party in exile”. He has a point. UKIP is closer than the Tory Party to the conservative principles and values that brought many of us into politics in the first place. It is right on Europe, right on climate and energy, and much closer to the views of most Conservatives on a range of issues including tax policy, immigration, “human rights”, foreign aid, University admissions and defence.
I have always argued that a parliamentarian who finds himself no longer able to support the Party should stand aside in favour of another Conservative, and I have roundly criticised former colleagues who failed to do so, like Bill Newton Dunn and Edward McMillan Scott. But in this case, as you will be aware, I sought in good faith to do the honourable thing, and to resign in favour of the next-in-line Conservative, Rupert Matthews. Indeed in October I announced my intention to resign at the end of 2011. But that plan was frustrated by the deliberate obstinacy and recalcitrance of the Party Chairman.
I wrote to Baroness Warsi in early January saying that I would not resign without a clear undertaking on the succession issue. I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received. In these circumstances I believe that I have fulfilled my obligation to the Party, so far as I am able, and I therefore withdraw my offer to resign. I had made it clear to Baroness Warsi that I would not allow the stand-off to continue indefinitely, so I will now plan to fulfil my current term until 2014.
By seeking to do what I took to be the decent thing, and offering to stand aside in favour of another Conservative, I hope at least that I shall retain the respect of Party members in the region. They have selected and reselected me three times over the years, and I know that for the most part their views are closer to my own than to those of the Party leadership.
I will continue to work for a free, independent, sovereign and democratic Britain, trading and cooperating with our neighbours but governed from Westminster, not Brussels. Roll on Independence Day.