Election 2015

Ex-Tory candidate Mike Whitehead switches to UKIP

Mike Whitehead Image copyright PA
Image caption Mike Whitehead is now a member of UKIP

A former Conservative parliamentary candidate has joined UKIP, amid a row in the Hull West and Hessle constituency.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage welcomed Mike Whitehead's move, with Mr Whitehead citing a row with the local Conservative group for his decision.

The Conservatives said Mr Whitehead had been "sacked" as its candidate in the constituency last week.

He had previously resigned as a Tory councillor on East Riding Council.

Mr Whitehead will not be standing for UKIP in the general election because the party already has a candidate in the constituency. But he will stand in the local elections, which take place on the same day.

Mr Whitehead is the second district councillor from East Riding Council to join UKIP in recent weeks.

'Hammer blow'

Speaking on BBC Five Live, Mr Whitehead said the Conservative party had "terminated" his candidacy in the Hull West and Hessle seat after he refused not to stand as a local councillor.

"The Conservative Party took a pre-emptive strike because they knew I was going," he said.

"I got an email on Wednesday evening to say that if didn't stand aside from my intentions to stand in the local elections they would remove my candidacy in Hull West and Hessle."

UKIP leader Nigel Farage described the move as a "hammer blow to Tory pretensions in the north of England".

He said he was aware that Mr Whitehead had been in dispute with other Conservatives councillors.

"They had an argument before the Easter Holidays, of that there's no doubt, but I was aware before Easter myself that he was going to come, he was going to join us," he said.

"Either way, the fact is that somebody who was a Conservative candidate has now crossed the floor and joined UKIP and that's the kind of trend we're seeing, particularly at local council level across many parts of the north."

'Not a defection'

The Conservative Culture Secretary Sajid Javid denied Mr Whitehead had defected from the party. "The gentleman involved was not a Conservative candidate," he said.

"He was up until last week but he was sacked and so it's not a defection."

Labour's former home secretary Alan Johnson has been MP for Hull West and Hessle since 1997.

He is defending a 5,700 majority from the 2010 general election when the Conservatives finished third.

Labour's Jon Trickett, shadow Cabinet Office minister, insisted the move was "another huge blow" for the prime minister's authority.

"UKIP and the Tories increasingly share the same people as well as the same policies. Both stand for increased health service privatisation, extreme spending plans which threaten the NHS and further tax breaks for those at the top."

BBC political correspondent Chris Mason said the Conservatives might play the councillor's move down, but it would give Mr Farage something to smile about, especially as there had been plenty of stories about his parliamentary candidates making headlines for the wrong reasons.

The full list of general election candidates for all 650 UK constituencies will be published on 9 April.

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