Rumours surfaced yesterday that the next defector to join UKIP would not be an MP. Today the Evening Standard announced that Richard Barnes, the former Deputy Mayor of London, Boris Johnson’s right hand man, was the latest to call time on the Tories.
Boris let himself down somewhat with a rather clumsy gag yesterday about UKIP defectors causing unfortunate injuries to themselves with vacuum cleaners. Perhaps he had hoovers on his mind, given the way UKIP are currently hoovering up his former colleagues.
Born in 1947, educated at the University of Wales, a Conservative for decades, Mr Barnes was Deputy Mayor of London from 2008-2012. His responsibilities in that role (according to his website) included social policy, equality and access for the 2012 Olympic games, responsible procurement, Diversity Works for London, representing London to the international community, community cohesion and London Resilience, as well as standing in for the Mayor when required.
He authored the report and chaired the inquiry into the London bombings of July 2005, and has taken a public, indeed international, role in the fight against terrorism, speaking on the subject at overseas conferences.
Mr Barnes, who is gay, dismissed the claim that UKIP is homophobic. Asked about the infamous comments from a former Tory Councillor about legalising gay marriage and floods, Mr Barnes replied:
“I’ll stand my ground against any prat. They are in all the parties. I don’t think they become homophobic the moment they join UKIP.”
LGBT in UKIP were amongst the first to welcome him to the party this morning. I’m sure many London liberals will have choked on their organically sourced, fair trade, low carbon footprint focaccia and latte on reading that a gay man has joined UKIP. Shame they don’t take the time to learn more about UKIP before casting their ill informed, bigoted judgements.
Reading the many reports this morning, it seems Mr Barnes, like many, has come to the realisation that the Tory leadership is not interested in delivering real change. They talk the talk, make the promises, but never deliver. He described David Cameron’s promise of EU renegotiation as “unrealistic”. He argued UKIP is the only party with the right answers on leaving the EU, sorting out immigration and taking a strong position on HS2 and Heathrow expansion.
He told the Evening Standard:
“There seems to be a detachment from ordinary people’s lives in the Westminster Village. The parties just don’t seem to relate and talk the language of normal people.”
Let us hope that Mr Barnes is spared the ridiculous abuse hurled at other defectors by Ken Clarke, Cameron, Boris Johnson, Grant Shapps et al. Rather than abusing former colleagues, chasing shadows at conference and threatening any possible defectors, the Tories would be well advised to try to understand why this is happening. They should recognise that these defectors have not moved away from the Tories, rather the Conservatives have left them.
People will understand Reckless’ ‘lies’ about joining UKIP; who informs their employer of every development as they negotiate moving to a new job? You carry on as normal till you hand your notice in.The hypocrisy of the faux Tory outrage over these ‘lies’ is obvious. The Tory leadership has repeatedly broken their promises, they have repeatedly failed to deliver on their manifesto promises on immigration, national debt, political reform, and have left anyone of principle with no choice but to leave. Loyalty works both ways.
It doesn’t sounds as though Mr Barnes is being lined up as a parliamentary candidate for UKIP, but would seem a logical candidate for London Mayor in 2016.
Welcome to UKIP Mr Barnes. Hopefully your erstwhile colleagues will respect your decision, and you can be assured of a very warm UKIP welcome.
Now, who’s next?