UK Politics

Mark Reckless's journey from Tory rebel to UKIP recruit

Mark Reckless and Nigel Farage Image copyright PA

MP Mark Reckless has stunned the Conservative Party on the eve of their conference by defecting to UKIP and triggering a by-election.

For David Cameron, it is the worst possible start to a week that was meant to pull the Conservative Party together into a unified fighting force ahead of May's general election.

It is all the more shocking because there was no inkling of it beforehand on the Westminster rumour mill.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage has managed to pull off another publicity coup - one that like the defection of Douglas Carswell will leave Mr Cameron fretting about whether his party will hold together.

The only thing that will not come as too much of a surprise is the identity of the defector.

Mark Reckless is one of the names routinely bandied about when talk turns to who might be next to jump the Tory ship to UKIP.

Stag night

He is a close friend of Mr Carswell. They share the same Eurosceptic, libertarian, tax-cutting philosophy - and the same distrust of David Cameron.

He is also a lifelong friend of Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan - another leading voice on the libertarian, Eurosceptic wing of the party. They were best man at each other's weddings.

Image copyright PA

In 2008, Mr Hannan wrote in the Telegraph that Mr Reckless even organised his stag night in Reykjavik, Iceland, "determined that we should celebrate Iceland's status outside the EU".

A bespectacled former City lawyer, Mr Reckless was once described as looking like a country rector, although his Commons voting record gives him more in common with Marlon Brando in The Wild One ("What are you rebelling against? What have you got?").

In his brief Commons career, he has voted against the government on everything from tuition fees - in the early days of the coalition - to air strikes in Iraq in Friday's emergency debate.

But Mr Reckless is very much a rebel with a cause.

He believes Britain would be better off out of the European Union and has done everything in his power as a backbencher to make that happen.

He was one of a handful of Conservative MPs, including Mr Carswell, that UKIP did not stand against in the 2010 general election.

Brussels summit

He led calls for a referendum on Britain's EU membership, even holding his own postal referendum in his Rochester and Strood constituency, sending out ballot papers to 45,000 households in his constituency with the question "Should the UK be a member of the European Union?".

In 2012, he was seen as the driving force behind the coalition's first Commons defeat, leading 53 Tory rebels to join with Labour to back a motion demanding a real terms cut in the EU budget, causing embarrassment to Mr Cameron on the eve of a Brussels summit.

He was one of the 15 MPs who supported Conservative backbencher Adam Afriyie's rebel amendment calling for the EU referendum to be held in 2014 - and he signed an amendment to the Immigration Bill calling for restrictions on migrants on Romania and Bulgaria to be extended to 2018.

He is probably best known outside Westminster for having to apologise to Mr Cameron after missing a Commons vote because he had had too much to drink on the Commons terrace. He vowed it would not happen again.

Walking and running

Born in 1970, Mr Reckless grew up in Eltham, south-east London and was privately educated at Marlborough College.

After graduating from Oxford with a degree in philosophy, politics and economics he took an MBA at Columbia Business School in New York and went to work as an economist for an investment bank.

He later worked as a management consultant and a Conservative Party researcher, while attempting to unseat Labour MP Bob Marshall-Andrews in the former seat of Medway.

He came within 213 votes of gaining a seat in the Commons in 2005 before soundly beating Teresa Murray, the Labour candidate who had replaced Mr Marshall-Andrews, in 2010, with a majority of 9,953.

He had used the time between elections to gain a law degree and take a job with a firm of City solicitors. He also sat on Medway Council and Kent Police Authority.

In 2011 he married Scottish lawyer Catriona Brown. According to Dodds' political information service, his hobbies are walking and running.

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