Leading Conservative cabinet member at North Norfolk District Council announces defection to UKIP

Russell Wright.

Russell Wright. - Credit: Archant

A leading member of North Norfolk District Council's ruling Conservative administration has defected to UKIP.

A leading member of North Norfolk District Council's ruling Conservative administration has defected to UKIP.

Cabinet member Russell Wright said it had been 'one of the most difficult decisions' of his life, but blamed the national Conservative elite for failing young people.

The Cromer businessman, who had been a member of the party for 28 years, said: 'I have not been happy with the way things were going in the Conservative party for some time.

'The values when I joined in 1986 were the values I grew up with. You would only take welfare as a last resort. But the European Union has reinforced the move away from these values.'

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Mr Wright lost his Norfolk County Council seat to UKIP in May 2013, when he said he could not join UKIP because some of its more right-wing views frightened him.

But yesterday he said: 'UKIP has cleaned up its act and removed the more extreme right-wing elements.'

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As Mr Wright defected on November 18, the Conservative party cannot call a by-election. The cut-off date for calling an election was November 11.

Michael Baker, district councillor and Norfolk County councillor, is UKIP's prospective parliamentary candidate for north Norfolk.

He said: 'I am very pleased to be able to welcome Russell into the UKIP and independence group on North Norfolk District Council and into membership of UKIP.

For such a high profile member of the ruling Conservative group to come over to UKIP speaks volumes on the unrest within the Tory party.

'If any other councillors are considering following Russell's courageous lead, I would be delighted to hear from them.'

District council leader Tom FitzPatrick said he had not spoken personally to Mr Wright about the decision but was disappointed to hear the news.

What do you think about the decision? Email sabah.meddings@archant.co.uk

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