Ukip Rochester by-election candidate Mark Reckless accuses the Tories of acting like 'BNP-lite'

Defector hits out at former party after receiving his own criticism for immigration comments

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The Ukip candidate in the Rochester and Strood by-election has accused the Conservative Party of being like “BNP-lite” – while defending his own controversial comments on immigration.

Mark Reckless, who sparked tomorrow’s election by defecting from the Tories at the end of September, said in a debate that some long-term EU migrants could be told to leave Britain if Ukip gets into power.

He said a Polish plumber who lived in the area with his family could be issued with “fixed period” work permits, while those “who have been here a long time and integrated in that way” would be “looked at sympathetically”.

Conservative MP Damian Green said Mr Reckless had come "dangerously close" to advocating a repatriation policy, while the shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper suggested the Ukip candidate had “let the mask slip”.

But speaking today to BBC Kent, Mr Reckless drew attention instead to a leaflet released by the Conservative candidate Kelly Tolhurst that appeared to link “uncontrolled immigration” and fear of crime.

“I call on the Conservatives to disassociate themselves from this BNP-lite campaign,” he said.

Mr Reckless said anyone who had been in the UK for 10 years should be eligible for citizenship, and said Ukip was not calling for “any mass movements of people”.

He said: “I'm absolutely astonished that the Tories are twisting this in the way that they are.

“What we would do is provide work permits to the people who are here. People who are integrated... we would expect those people to be able to stay,” he added.