Labour mayor of Bishop Auckland defects to Ukip claiming 'the party I once knew is no more'

Councillor Colin Race's move will delight Nigel Farage, who last year claimed his Eurosceptic party was 'now parking our tanks on the Labour Party's lawn'

The Labour mayor of a northern town has defected from his party and announced he is joining Ukip insisting that “the party that stuck up for working families is no more”.

Councillor Colin Race told his colleagues in Bishop Auckland, County Durham that that he was defecting to the Eurosceptic party with immediate effect.

The life-long Labour voter lamented the “cosy consensus of Westminster” and said the “Labour Party that I once knew… is no more”.

A statement said: “We have a cosy consensus of politicians in Westminster who spend more time patting each other on the back than representing the people who pay their wages at the end of the month.”

While hardly a senior figure inside the Labour party, his defection may rattle some who fear working class voters could abandon Ed Miliband’s party in May, citing immigration policy and Britain’s future role in Europe as key concerns. 

Mr Race’s departure to Ukip will delight its leader, Nigel Farage, who last year vowed the Eurosceptic party was “now parking our tanks on the Labour Party's lawn”. Unlike David Cameron who has lost two MPs to the Eurosceptic party however, Mr Miliband has not yet had to deal with any major defection.

Mr Race said the North East had the “highest rates of unemployment in the country”. “How are my kids meant to get a job when our political class support open-door mass immigration from 27 other EU member states?”

Mr Miliband conversely appears to have solidified his position on immigration in recent weeks, aiming to steal a march on David Cameron whose 2011 target to reduce net migration before the 2015 election has been comprehensively missed.

“Immigration makes us stronger, richer and more powerful as a nation,” he told the Fabian Society on Saturday. “That’s the truth I believe.”

News of the defection which broke late on Monday night was welcomed by Ukip's MEP for the North East. “Labour Party members across our region are simply realising that  on Labour party the incredibly wealthy individuals who sit at the top of the Labour Party don't, and make no attempt to, work for hard-working, law-abiding citizens across the country.”

A Labour North spokesman said: “On the day Nigel Farage confirmed his plans to privatise the NHS, people in Bishop Auckland will rightly be questioning the decision of one of their town councillors.

“Ukip's policies include another tax break for millionaires, higher taxes on working families, scrapping rights at work and higher bankers' bonuses.

“They can't be described as a party who will stand up for working people. In reality they are more Tory than the Tories.”

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