Former MP Mark Reckless has quit Ukip to rejoin the Conservatives, the party has announced.
The move is yet another blow for Ukip, whose only elected MP Douglas Carswell also just quit the party, with senior figures now demanding Mr Reckless resign his seat on the Welsh Assembly.
After announcing his return to the Tories, he said: “[Ms May] has been steadfast in her position to deliver on the wishes of the people of Wales and the United Kingdom, building a united country that works for everyone and not just the privileged few.”
His switch boosts the number of Assembly Members the Conservatives have in Wales, making them a bigger party than Plaid Cymru and allowing the Tories to take on the mantle of official opposition to Labour.
Mr Reckless’s move was warmly welcomed by the leader of the assembly’s Conservative group, Andrew Davies, who said the new member had already proved himself “hard-working and dedicated”.
He added: “He will now be able to continue this work as part of a strong and united team which will be the official opposition in the assembly.
“Mark’s decision to join the group is testament to the strength and unity of the Welsh Conservative team in Cardiff Bay which provides the only real opposition to a tired and complacent Labour administration.”
The re-defection follows last month’s announcement from Mr Carswell, another defector from the Tories, that he would quit Ukip to sit as an independent in the House of Commons.
Mr Reckless originally joined Ukip in 2014, but after winning a by-election in his Rochester and Strood seat he was voted out of the Commons in the 2015 general election. He was subsequently elected to the assembly on a Ukip ticket in May 2016.
Ukip chairman Paul Oakden said: “Having been elected as a Conservative in Rochester and Strood, Mark didn’t think it right to sit as an MP for another party without asking the electorate for their endorsement in a by-election. A position that was right as it was honourable.
“In the campaign that followed, our membership worked incredibly hard to ensure that Mark retained his seat.
“It is now incumbent on Mark Reckless to relinquish a position he has only by virtue of a Ukip mandate. The position should go to the next Ukip candidate on the regional list.”
A spokesman for the Ukip group in the assembly said: “This defection is a slap in the face for the voters of South East Wales who voted for Ukip in 2016 in the good faith they were electing a Ukip Assembly Member.”
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