I’m today leaving the Conservative party and joining UKIP. This hasn’t been an easy decision.
I’ve been a member of the Conservative party for all my adult life. It’s full of wonderful people who want the best for Britain.
My local Conservative Association in Clacton is thriving. It brims with those that I am honoured to call my friends.
The problem is that many of those at the top of the Conservative party aren’t on our side. They aren’t serious about the changes that Britain desperately needs.
Of course, they talk the talk before elections. They say what they feel they must say when they want our support.
But on so many issues – modernising our politics and the recall of MPs, controlling our borders, less government, bank reform, cutting public debt, an EU referendum – they never actually make it happen.
All three of the older parties seem the same. They’ve swathes of safe seats. They’re run by those who became MPs by working in the offices of MPs. They use pollsters to tell them what to tell us.
Politics to them is about politicians like them. It’s a game of spin and positioning.
First under Tony Blair, then Gordon Brown, now David Cameron, it’s all about the priorities of whichever tiny clique happens to be sitting on the sofa in Downing Street. Different clique, same sofa.
Few are animated by principle or passion. Those that are soon get shuffled out of the way. Many are just in it for themselves. They seek every great office, yet believe in so little.
Only UKIP can change this. Only UKIP can shake up the cozy little clique called Westminster.
I’m joining UKIP not because I am a conservative who hankers after the past. I want change. Things can be better than this.
I am an optimist. Britain’s a better place than it was when I was born in the early 1970s.
We’re more open and tolerant. We’re, for the most part, more prosperous. More people are free to grow up and live as they want to live than ever before.
As the father of a young daughter, I’ve come to appreciate what feminism’s achieved. Most girls growing up in Britain today will have better life chances than before thanks to greater equality.
There’s been a revolution in attitudes towards disabled people.
What was once dismissed as “political correctness gone mad”, we recognise as good manners. Good.
So much about Britain is so much better. Except when it comes to how we do politics.
UKIP is not an angry backlash against the modern world. Modernity has raised our expectations of how things could be.
We need change.
People have a right to expect a government that gets the basics right.
In a world of 24 hours supermarkets and instant access everything, it ought to be possible to make an appointment to see a GP. Yet in my Essex constituency patients have to literally stand in line and wait. They have to compete to been seen by doctors.
There is an alphabet soup of NHS quangos supposed to be in charge. But who takes responsibility?
People have a right to expect the government to control who crosses our borders. Tens of thousands of Londoners log in and log out of the London underground each day. Yet the government just wasted another £224 million on a system that failed to log people in and out as they cross our borders.
On the subject of immigration, let me make it absolutely clear; I’m not against immigration. The one thing more ugly that nativism is angry nativism.
Just like Australia or Switzerland, we should welcome those that want to come here to contribute. We need those with skills and drive. There’s hardly a hospital, GP surgery or supermarket in the country that could run without that skill and drive. Real leadership would make this clear.
We should speak with pride and respect about first generation Britons.
But like Australia, we ought to have the right to decide who comes.
Ministers promised us a great Freedom Bill, which was going to repeal all that unnecessary red tape. It never seemed to happen.
Ministers promised us real bank reform. They only seemed to tinker. They don’t think things through. They make one glib announcement after another – and then move on. On to the next speech. The next announcement. The next headline.
They promised to cut the public debt. In just five years of this government, public debt will increase by more than it did during thirteen years of Gordon Brown.
Clever word play about debt and the deficit doesn’t conceal that fact that we’re still having to borrow over £100 billion a year – and even then government is not getting the basics right.
We need change.
People have a right to expect a government that answers to Parliament, and a Parliament that’s accountable to the people.
All three parties went into the last election promising to give local people a right to recall their MP. The Coalition agreement promised a system of open primaries, to throw politics open to those beyond SW1.
None of it has happened. The whips spent the summer trying to undermine Zac Goldsmith’s proposals for real recall. They’re really not serious about real change.
We need change in our relationship with Europe.
When we joined what was to become the European Union all those years ago, we imagined we would be joining a prosperous trading block. In the early 1970s, it accounted for almost 40 percent of world economic output.
Today it accounts for a mere 25 percent. In a decade, its expected to be down to 15 percent.
Far from growing, the European Union has grown sclerotic. Indeed, it’s the one continent on the planet that isn’t growing.
Even a decade ago, we were told that we had to join the Euro because it would raise our output. It would bring prosperity. Looking across the channel, no one seriously argues that any more.
Yet who in Westminster – who amongst our so-called leaders – is prepared to envisage real change?
To be fair, over the past four years ministers have at times done the right thing about Europe. They vetoed a treaty change. They refused any budget increase. And of course they agreed to an In / Out vote.
But on each occasion they only did the right thing because they had been forced to by their own side. On each occasion, they had instructed their own MPs on a three line whip to support the wrong thing.
With an election approaching, ministers most Eurosceptic boasts are about things they know that they were pushed into doing. It’s not leadership. They’ve not serious about real change. They’re only interested in holding office.
No one cheered David Cameron more loudly at the time of his Bloomberg speech, when he finally accepted the case for a referendum. He would, he claimed, negotiate a fundamentally new relationship with the EU, and put it to the people in 2017; In or Out.
But there’s been no detail since. That’s because there isn’t any. Again, they’ve not thought it through.
Ministers have specifically ruled out a trade-only arrangement with the EU. The Prime Minister said so specifically at a meeting of the 1922. It won’t even be on the table.
His advisers have made it clear they won’t contemplate any deal with UKIP. They’re more comfortable doing deals with Nick Clegg than with a party that wants real change in our relations with the EU.
His advisers have made it clear that they seek a new deal that gives them just enough to persuade enough voters to vote to stay in. It’s not about change in our national interest. It’s all about not changing things.
Once I realised that, my position in the Conservative party became untenable.
There is a world of change and opportunity out there. Tens of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty within my life time. There is a growing middle class in India, China and elsewhere.
Our future prosperity rest on being able to produce things that those millions of new consumers want.
Ministers are simply not up to giving us the kind of realignment that we need.
It is not enough that I leave the Conservative party and join UKIP.
As someone who has always answered directly to independent-minded Essex folk, there is only one honourable thing to do.
I must seek permission from my boss – the people of Clacton. I will now resign from Parliament, and stand for UKIP in the by election that must follow.
I don’t have to do this. It would have been easy for me to have muddled along comfortably as a backbench MP. There are all too many who enjoy that convenient life. But that’s not the sort of person I am.
I stood for Parliament in the first place because I believe in certain things. I still do. With greater determination than ever.
I just happen to know that principle in politics is more important than the career of an individual MP – even if that MP happens to be me.
Things don’t have to be this way. I’ll be asking the voters of Essex to help me bring change. Let’s do this together. Let’s see if we can make history.
Thank you. I must now return to Clacton to prepare for what is to come.