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GORDON HENDERSON MP

FOR SITTINGBOURNE & SHEPPEY

Statement - UKIP Defection Speculation

Speculation is again rife that I am about to defect to UKIP. Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless have left the Conservative Party and the national media are desperate to find out who will be next. I appear to be their favourite! I am sorry but they will be disappointed.

It is true that I was approached by a leading member of UKIP to “do a Douglas Carswell” and defect from the Conservative Party, but I turned down that offer. I have no intention of joining UKIP and I would like to explain why.

I have been a member of the Conservative Party for almost 50 years. The reason I am a member is because the principles of the Conservative Party reflect my own philosophy. And here we must differentiate between principles and policies.
Policies change with the wind, or the election of a new leader. Principles are constant.

I have often opposed Conservative Party policies, which is why I have rebelled on over 40 occasions during my short time as an MP, but I would never oppose the core principles on which the Conservative Party was built.

It is worth remembering that the Conservative Party belongs to its members, not the Leader of the Party, its MPs or any other individual. And the Conservative Party has principles and without those principles it would be nothing.

So what are those principles? I can do no better than quote the definition given by the greatest ever Conservative Leader, Winston Churchill…

“Our main objectives are: To uphold the Christian religion and resist all attacks upon it. To defend our Monarchical and Parliamentary Constitution. To provide adequate security against external aggression and safety for our seaborne trade. To uphold law and order, and impartial justice administered by Courts free from interference or pressure on the part of the executive. To regain a sound finance and strict supervision of national income and expenditure. To defend and develop our Empire trade, without which Great Britain would perish. To promote all measures to improve the health and social conditions of the people. To support as a general rule free enterprise and initiative against State trading and nationalisation of industries.

“To this I will add some further conceptions. We oppose the establishment of a Socialist State, controlling the means of production, distribution and exchange. We are asked, "What is your alternative?" Our Conservative aim is to build a property-owning democracy, both independent and interdependent. In this I include profit-sharing schemes in suitable industries and intimate consultation between employers and wage-earners. In fact we seek so far as possible to make the status of the wage-earner that of a partner rather than of an irresponsible employee. It is in the interest of the wage-earner to have many other alternatives open to him than service under one all-powerful employer called the State. He will be in a better position to bargain collectively and production will be more abundant; there will be more for all and more freedom for all when the wage-earner is able, in the large majority of cases, to choose and change his work, and to deal with a private employer who, like himself, is subject to the ordinary pressures of life and, like himself, is dependent upon his personal thrift, ingenuity and good-housekeeping. In this way alone can the traditional virtues of the British character be preserved. We do not wish the people of this ancient island reduced to a mass of State-directed proletarians, thrown hither and thither, housed here and there, by an aristocracy of privileged officials or privileged Party, sectarian or Trade Union bosses. We are opposed to the tyranny and victimisation of the closed shop [note: a unionized workplace where all workers must join the union]. Our ideal is the consenting union of millions of free, independent families and homes to gain their livelihood and to serve true British glory and world peace.

“Freedom of enterprise and freedom of service are not possible without elaborate systems of safeguards against failure, accident or misfortune. We do not seek to pull down improvidently the structures of society, but to erect balustrades upon the stairway of life, which will prevent helpless or foolish people from falling into the abyss.”

Obviously a number of the principles espoused by Winston Churchill are no longer quite so relevant; for instance we no longer have an Empire and, like it or not, we live in a multi-cultural country in which the Christian religion no longer has the same number of active followers as it used to have.

But the thrust of the Conservative objectives set out by Churchill remain, particularly free enterprise and the belief that individuals are more important that the State.

To be honest, I did consider accepting the UKIP offer to join them, not least because some of their policies reflect my own views, such as a belief that Britain would be better leaving the European Union and the need for much more robust immigration policies. But many of UKIP’s other policies were muddled and contradictory.

Most importantly, I could not work out UKIP’s core principles, because those too seemed muddled and contradictory.

Does UKIP believe in free enterprise? Does it support a reduction in the power of the state? Does it support welfare reform? Does it believe in a rebalancing of the economy in favour of the private sector or does it want to expand the public sector? Will it offer the British People a referendum on our membership of the EU?

The answers to these questions are not clear.

I came to the conclusion that the only real principles that UKIP have is: 1) present itself as not being either Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democratic and 2) to say whatever is necessary to win somebody’s vote.

That is not a party with which I would feel comfortable!

My own position is clear; I am a Conservative because I believe in Conservative principles, but I will always put the interests of my constituents before those of the Conservative Party, particularly when I disagree with policies that are introduced from time to time!

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