Tory MPs have warned Brexiteer groups are attempting to “flood” their party, but a Red Roar investigation can reveal that one in ten UKIP councillors have already been allowed to defect to the Tories.
The councillors join a growing number of former UKIP members in switching to the Tories to continue promoting their extreme views on issues like Brexit and immigration.
The Red Roar has found evidence that at least 36 of the 358 UKIP councillors elected since 2015 have defected to the Tories with the approval of party chiefs. The true figure could be much higher, with UKIP having lost a total of 233 councillors since 2015.
Some defections, like the simultaneous switch of seven Great Yarmouth councillors in 2017, garnered national media attention. However, most were reported only in local papers, while others happened so quietly that they were not reported at all. In some areas like Derby, UKIP have provided Conservative administrations with essential support without defections taking place. A full list of defections is provided at the end of this article.
Tory figures including party chairman Brandon Lewis have celebrated the reversal of a trend that had previously seen Conservative politicians and activists hemorrhaging to UKIP. This warm welcome for UKIP activists marks a departure from the Cameron years which saw the former Prime Minister describe UKIP members as “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists”. Senior Tory MP Robert Halfon once embraced defections to the party, saying “in many ways UKIP have done us an enormous favour because they’re cleansing people from the Tory party that had these kind of views”.
However, the news will concern Conservative MPs who have warned that their party risks a lurch to the right as May’s premiership falters. Last week the remain-supporting Tory MP Anna Soubry described a trend of people who “went off to UKIP and are now re-joining the party” as “really worrying”, while her colleague George Freeman warned “we must resist pressure from Nigel Farage … to distort the Conservative membership”.
It should also worry left-wingers who fear the rising influence of the far-right, as former UKIP supporters could swing a future Tory leadership contest in favour of a populist Brexiteer like Boris Johnson.
UKIP Councillors Defecting to UKIP
- Cllr Peter Holliman, Basildon
- Cllr Diane Parkinson, Bolton
- Cllr Paul Varker, Castle Point
- Cllr Shaun Keasey, Dudley
- Cllr Kerry Lewis, Dudley
- Cllr Andy Erskine, Essex
- Cllr Alan Preest, Gloucestershire
- Cllr Colin Guyton, Gloucestershire
- Cllr Carl Annison, Great Yarmouth
- Cllr Malcolm Bird, Great Yarmouth
- Cllr Alan Grey, Great Yarmouth
- Cllr Kay Grey, Great Yarmouth
- Cllr Paul Hammond, Great Yarmouth
- Cllr Sue Hacon, Great Yarmouth
- Cllr Katy Stenhouse, Great Yarmouth
- Cllr Chris Wood, former UKIP Hampshire Leader
- Cllr Simon Bywater, Huntingdonshire
- Cllr Mike Tew, Huntingdonshire
- Cllr Stephen Harness, North East Lincolnshire
- Cllr James Cairns, North East Lincolnshire
- Cllr Nick Pettigrew, North East Lincolnshire
- Cllr John Riley, Plymouth
- Cllr Maddi Bridgeman, Plymouth
- Cllr Christopher Storer, Plymouth
- Cllr Julie Bird, Portsmouth
- Cllr Steve Turner, Redcar
- Cllr Daniel Efde, Rochford
- Cllr James Moyies, Southend
- Cllr Floyd Waterworth, Southend
- Cllr David McGlone, Southend
- Cllr Phil Chadwick, Tameside
- Cllr Beverly Martin, Thanet
- Cllr Peter Evans, Thanet
- Cllr Colin Churchman, Thurrock
- Cllr Francis Drake, Weymouth and Portland