THE Tory Party Conference opened in a massive crisis in Birmingham yesterday, after two top Tories resigned from their positions in the preceding two days.
On Friday, Rochester and Strood Tory MP Mark Reckless appeared on stage at the UKIP conference in Doncaster, saying: ‘Today I am leaving the Conservative Party and joining UKIP.’
He is the second Tory MP to defect to UKIP after Clacton MP Douglas Carswell did the same in August. Reckless won his seat as a Conservative in 2010 with a majority of 9,953 votes over Labour’s Teresa Murray.
Cameron told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that Reckless’s defection was ‘frustrating’, while UKIP leader Farage told Marr it ‘wouldn’t surprise’ him to see more defections.
Opening the Tory Party Conference, a vitriolic Tory Party Chairman Grant Shapps accused Reckless of having ‘lied and lied and lied again’ ahead of his resignation.
Reckless’s move was followed by the resignation from the government on Saturday of the Tory Minister for Civil Society, Brooks Newmark, after learning that yesterday’s Sunday Mirror was about to expose him for sending an explicit sexual image of himself to one of its undercover reporters.
The Sunday Mirror said its reporter had been posing as a young female activist.
Amidst the crisis engulfing his party, Cameron said that any future Tory government would deny unemployment benefit to youth and make a £3,000 cut to maximum household benefits.
Unemployed young people aged 18 to 21 have six months to find work or training, after which their jobseeker’s allowance would be withdrawn unless they agreed to take part in ‘community projects’ such as cleaning up local parks.
They would be entitled to a ‘youth allowance’, set at the same level as JSA – currently £57.35 for those aged 16-24 – while carrying out the community work.
They would also be prevented from claiming housing benefit.
Cameron said: ‘I want us to end the idea that aged 18 you can leave school, go and leave home, claim unemployment benefit and claim housing benefit.’
A Tory government would also cut the maximum benefits a household can claim a year from £26,000 to £23,000, he said.
He claimed the welfare cap had ‘worked very well’, adding: ‘All the evidence is the cap is too loose, particularly in some parts of the country, so bringing it down to £23,000 saves money, and will mean more families getting into work.’