UK Politics

Richard Barnes, former Tory deputy London mayor, backs UKIP

Richard Barnes
Image caption Richard Barnes stood as an independent candidate this year

A former Conservative deputy mayor of London has switched his allegiance to UKIP.

Richard Barnes said the main reason was his opposition to the HS2 rail link between London, the North and the Midlands.

Mr Barnes was deputy to Mayor Boris Johnson between 2008 and 2012, and was Tory leader on the London Assembly.

Two Conservative MPs, Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless, have recently defected to UKIP.

And the son of Conservative MP and veteran eurosceptic Bill Cash has also joined Nigel Farage's party.

In response to his friend's defection, Mr Johnson said Mr Barnes had "let the side down a bit" and suggested any other Tories thinking of defecting to UKIP - whose members are known as Kippers - must be "utterly nuts".

In his address to the Conservative conference, Mr Johnson insisted they were the only party with a "serious" message on Europe and urged his party to "eat UKIP for breakfast".

'Ordinary people'

Earlier this year, Mr Barnes, who lost his seat in Ealing and Hillingdon to Labour in 2012, stood as an independent candidate in council elections in the London Borough of Hillingdon, finishing behind both the Conservatives and UKIP.

He chaired a London Assembly inquiry into the London bombings of 7 July, 2005.

He described the HS2 scheme as a "white elephant that will have virtually no impact on the vast majority of train users", adding: "UKIP talks to, listens to and speaks for the ordinary men and women of this country in a way that the other parties just cannot grasp.

"On issues such as education, taxation, immigration and of course the European Union it is UKIP that is speaking for the majority."

Mr Barnes also told the Evening Standard that Prime Minister David Cameron's plans to renegotiate with Europe were "unrealistic".

UKIP leader Nigel Farage said: "It is great to have Richard along, both as a man of great political experience, but also for his depth of knowledge of counter terrorism."

Referendum

UKIP also welcomed another recruit after publisher William Cash Junior said he was leaving the Conservatives, suggesting they had "badly let down" the countryside.

Mr Cash, whose father is MP for Stone and has long campaigned for the UK to rethink its relationship with the EU, has been named UKIP's spokesman on heritage issues.

He cited current policy on taxation of historic buildings as one of the reasons for his decision.

If the Conservatives win the next election, Mr Cameron has said he will renegotiate the UK's relationship with the EU before holding a referendum on its membership in 2017.

The prime minister told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the "overwhelming majority of people in the Conservative Party" believed a Tory government was the only way to get an EU referendum.

Mr Carswell and Mr Reckless have both triggered by-elections in their seats.