Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Hampshire UKIP councillor defects to Conservatives

Chris Wood (left) with Sean Woodward Image copyright Sean Woodward
Image caption Leader of Fareham Borough Council Sean Woodward said he was "delighted" to welcome Chris Wood to the Conservative Party

A UKIP councillor and former parliamentary candidate has announced he is defecting to the Conservative Party.

Chris Wood was the UKIP group leader at Hampshire County Council but said the party had become "thoroughly embarrassing".

He said his decision followed the resignation of UKIP leader Diane James.

UKIP has called for him to formally resign his seat and allow a by-election to take place.

Mr Wood, who is also a Fareham borough councillor, said an altercation between UKIP MEPs Mike Hookham and Steven Woolfe, which landed Mr Woolfe in hospital last week, had also led to his defection.

He added UKIP had also become "toxified over the past 18 months through comments about HIV and AIDS".

Image copyright UKIP
Image caption Steven Woolfe ended up in hospital after an altercation with fellow UKIP MEP Mike Hookham

"It's become thoroughly embarrassing and just something that I can't defend anymore," he said.

"For those of us in local government - who joined the party to leave the European Union and to help our local residents - what is the purpose anymore?

"I don't do opposition for opposition's sake. Theresa May is delivering on Brexit and locally the Conservative Party are investing hugely in my local area, for example the Stubbington by-pass.

He said he was "more than happy" to be joining the Tories - a party he was previously a member of about six years ago.

Leader of Fareham Borough Council Sean Woodward said he was "delighted" to welcome Mr Wood back to the Conservative Party.

A UKIP spokesman said the party was "saddened" by Mr Wood's decision.

"We believe that, as a former UKIP councillor and as somebody who has in the past supported the concept of Recall, he should formally resign his seat and offer himself up to his electorate in a by-election.

"After all he was elected as a UKIP councillor, most likely on the basis of his party affiliation, rather [than] his undoubted abilities".

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