A Conservative councillor for North Shropshire who was only elected in May has defected to former actor Laurence Fox’s right-wing Reclaim Party, an embarrassment for the Tories ahead of a key by-election in the county.
Anthony Allen’s decision to join Mr Fox’s “anti-woke” political outfit comes as the region prepares to vote on Owen Paterson’s successor as local MP after the ex-Northern Ireland secretary resigned over his part in the “Tory sleaze” affair that has dogged the party this autumn.
Mr Allen, a 45-year-old cab company owner turned councillor for Market Drayton, said in a statement: “I’ve resigned my membership to the Tory party and joined the Reclaim Party. The Conservatives simply aren’t conservative any more.”
He added that the governing party had, in his opinion, “gone soft on illegal immigration, they’ve lost control of taxation and are obsessed with crippling green taxes nobody wants”.
His defection was cheered by Mr Fox, scion of the celebrated acting dynasty turned populist provocateur who ran an unsuccessful bid to become London mayor earlier this year.
“Anthony is our first councillor, but - watch this space - he won’t be our last” he said, adding: “I’d urge any other dissatisfied councillors out there to get in touch.”
As a mayoral candidate, Mr Fox promoted himself as a Covid-19 sceptic, declining to wear a face mask during public appearances and declaring that he would not get vaccinated until 2023 by which point he said he would be satisfied it was safe to do so.
His new vehicle is similarly preoccupied with freedom of speech issues as well as more zeitgeisty concerns like defending statues of historic figures such as Edward Colston and Cecil Rhodes against calls for their removal from public places.
In an open letter on the Reclaim website, Mr Fox argues that mainstream politicians “have lost touch with the people they represent and govern” and that “our public institutions now work to an agenda beyond their main purpose”.
He continues: “The people of the United Kingdom are tired of being told that we represent the very thing we have in history stood together against. We are all privileged to be the custodians of our shared heritage.
“We can reclaim a respectful nation where all are included and none are ashamed to have somewhere to call home.”
Mr Fox was joined by party deputy leader Martin Daubney on Twitter on Monday as he unveiled Mr Allen in a new video, the trio posing in the Oswestry chill in front of a vintage anti-aircraft gun while a stirring orchestral recording of “Jerusalem” played faintly in the background.
Leaping on Mr Allen’s echo of the Brexiteers’ war cry to “take back control of our country”, one commentator joked: “They are taking back the taking back control.”
Mr Daubney, a former member of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party who represented the West Midlands in the European Parliament between 2019 and 2020, is running as Reclaim’s candidate in the North Shropshire by-election.
He is up against the Conservatives’ Dr Neil Shastri-Hurst, Labour’s Ben Wood, Helen Morgan of the Liberal Democrats, Kirsty Walmsley of Reform UK and Duncan Kerr of the Green Party in battling to succeed Mr Paterson.
The field also includes UKIP’s Andrea Allen, Alan “Howling Laud” Hope of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party and Boris Johnson impersonator Drew Galdron, among others.
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