UKIP MEP defects to Tories
Eastern region MEP David Campbell Bannerman has defected to the Tories two years after being elected under the colours of the United Kingdom Independence Party.
Announcing his switch yesterday, he said that he had been 'increasingly impressed by the leadership shown by David Cameron in dealing with this country's problems', and that 'recent failings' of Ukip had 'confirmed it is not a serious, credible, fully-fledged political party but merely a pressure group'.
The Conservatives now have four of the region's seven seats in the European Parliament, and Ukip is reduced to one - which is held by Norfolk farmer Stuart Agnew. The Liberal Democrats and Labour also hold one seat each.
Mr Campbell Bannerman said that he continues to believe that 'Britain should leave the EU', but that he also thinks 'that while we are members we should fight our corner to secure the best deal possible'.
'I have been pleased with the robust stance taken by David Cameron and Conservative MEPs over the EU budget negotiations', he continued 'and I believe that it is Conservative MEPs who are working hard to defend Britain's interests. In contrast, as a member of Ukip I witnessed too many colleagues obsess with single issue politics, internal fighting, and shouting from the sidelines. This behaviour does nothing to serve the best interests of the British people.'
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Mr Campbell Bannerman was a Conservative activist before joining Ukip in 2004, and his return to the Tory fold was welcomed by foreign secretary William Hague, who said that the party was 'bringing in people who want to work in the national interest to sort out Britain's problems'.
Tory eastern region MEP Geoffrey Van Orden said that 'I know David will make an excellent addition to the Conservative team, having seen his work as a constituency colleague over the past two years'.
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But Labour's MEP for the region, Richard Howitt, said that the defection meant that the prime minister was 'leading the same old Tories', and that 'the eastern region will have a Conservative that people didn't vote for'. It also showed, he continued, that 'Ukip is in disarray'.