Conservative Party Defections Cast Cloud Over Conference

Rather than worry about the next election, Conservatives wonder who will be next to head over to UKIP.

Today marks the start of the British Conservative Party’s final conference before the general election in May.

The affair was meant to be a large one this year, with several new policy announcements concerning, among other things, the growing housing crisis for “generation rent” and how the Conservatives will try to counter the “purple peril” that the United Kingdom Independence Party has come to represent.

However, in the final day of the UKIP party conference earlier this week, the Conservatives were once again reduced to turmoil as their second lawmaker in under a month defected to the Euroskeptics.

The party is still reeling from the shock defection of Douglas Carswell, representative for Clacton on Sea. He forced a by-election by resiging his seat, instead of simply transferring to the other party, and, as such, is widely expected to become UKIP’s first member of the House of Commons.

Carswell was joined yesterday by Mark Reckless, representative for Rochester and Strood, who announced upon his defection that part of the problem was with the Conservative Party high command. This second defection has brought renewed unease to the party about who might be next to leave.

All of these has left the Conservative Party Conference a much tenser place than the leadership would have liked. In the coming days, as they make policy announcements and debate various issues, looming most on Conservatives’ minds will not be the coming general election but who of their party members will head over to Nigel Farage next.

David Downing reports from the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, England.