Tory defector Mark Reckless has dramatically quit Ukip and re-joined the Conservatives in the Welsh Assembly.
The former Ukip MP, who famously defected to Nigel Farage’s party from the Tories back in 2014, said he was switching because “for me it is job done now that Article 50 has been triggered”.
He is now facing calls from remaining senior Ukip figures to stand down as a Welsh Assembly Member, the position he took up after being ousted as an MP at the 2015 general election.
Reckless said in a statement released today:
“I am joining the Conservative Group in the Welsh Assembly. I leave UKIP positively, having achieved our joint aim, a successful referendum to leave the EU.
For me it is job done now that Article 50 has been triggered. I campaigned all my adult life for us to leave the EU. Now we are, under a Conservative government, I support Theresa May and her team of Brexit ministers to deliver.”
Farage said yesterday of fears Reckless was planning to rejoin the Tories: “I have always liked Mark Reckless, but if he thinks he can just leave after being elected on a list system that is very dishonourable behaviour.”
“He is clearly close to Douglas Carswell, I guess some kind of pressure’s been put on him.”
Responding to the confirmation of Reckless’ defection back to the Tories, Ukip’s Chairman Paul Oakden said he was “disappointed”.
“After losing his seat at the General Election, Mark was a popular colleague and a diligent Head of Policy for the Party, before being awarded a top position in the UKIP list for the Welsh Assembly Elections in 2016.
“Those elections gave voters in Wales the opportunity to support a party rather than a particular candidate and one in eight voters backed UKIP. As a result, Mark was one of two UKIP candidates from South Wales East elected to the Senedd.”
It is now incumbent on Mark Reckless to relinquish a position he has only by virtue of a UKIP mandate. The position should go to the next UKIP candidate on the regional list.”
Reckless will become an independent Welsh Assembly Member, but join the Conservative group in the devolved legislature.
The Assembly’s Presiding Officer has ruled “he can be treated as a member of [the Conservative] Group for the purposes of our procedures within the Assembly.”
The Liberal Democrats were scathing about Reckless’ defections. Former Wales Office Minister Baroness Randerson said: “UKIP have jumped from disaster to disaster, presumably to keep themselves busy now they’ve finally managed to ‘take back control’.
“They say good things come in threes. First they lost an AM, then they lost their only MP, and now they’re set to lose a third AM. They’re an embarrassment to the Welsh Assembly and are letting down those who elected them to the Assembly last May.”
Reckless announced his original landmark defection on the eve of the Conservative Party autumn conference, much to then Prime Minister David Cameron’s fury.
He held a by-election following the switch, re-winning his seat with an 8% margin.
But Reckless was ousted at the General Election the following year, halving Ukip’s number of MPs in Westminster.
Carswell resigned the Ukip whip last month, killing the party’s presence in the Commons completely.
Read HuffPost UK’s Owen Bennett’s analysis: Mark Reckless Is A Pound Shop Douglas Carswell Who Deserves To Be Forgotten