I am both surprised and disappointed to hear that my colleague Douglas Carswell has decided to leave the Conservative Party and join UKIP. I have always had a great admiration for Douglas who has an independence of thought which is very refreshing.
I should say that I had absolutely no advance knowledge of this decision and at no time have I ever discussed this with Douglas.
Of course people will now be asking who will be next and as Chairman of the Better Off Out group of MP’s and Peers in Parliament I have no doubt my name will be the frame. I can say therefore that whilst I will continue to make the case for the UK leaving the EU – something I agree with Douglas and of course UKIP about – I intend to stay in the Conservative Party. We have made enormous progress since I was elected in May 2010. When I first put forward the idea of having an In/Out referendum in October 2011 there was a three line whip from all the main parties against the idea. Now the Conservative Party is putting a three line whip on a Private Members Bill which provides for an In/Out referendum in 2017. The only way we are going to get that referendum is to have a majority Conservative Government. Even UKIP accept there will not be a UKIP Government and there is a real danger that in many marginal seats voters will stop Conservatives being elected and allow Labour MP’s to be elected.