BURY North MP David Nuttall has vowed to remain in the Conservative Party — after one of his key allies defected to the UK Independence Party (UKIP).
Eurosceptic MP for Clacton, Douglas Carswell, today resigned and triggered a by-election.
He claims that the government had failed to deliver the changes to European Union that he has called for.
Mr Nuttall said he was making the vow because he believed it could be suggested that he may be the next person to defect, given his views on the European Union.
He is the chairman of the anti-EU Better Off Out group of MPs, and has consistently campaigned for Britain to leave the EU.
In a post on his blog, Mr Nuttall said: “I am both surprised and disappointed to hear that my colleague Douglas Carswell has decided to leave the Conservative Party and join UKIP.
“I have always had a great admiration for Douglas who has an independence of thought which is very refreshing.
“I should say that I had absolutely no advance knowledge of this decision and at no time have I ever discussed this with Douglas.
“Of course people will now be asking who will be next and as Chairman of the Better Off Out group of MPs and peers in Parliament I have no doubt my name will be the frame.
“I can say therefore that whilst I will continue to make the case for the UK leaving the EU — something I agree with Douglas and of course UKIP about — I intend to stay in the Conservative Party.”
Mr Nuttall said that a vote for UKIP could be a vote for Labour, because voters who may usually support the Conservatives could defect to UKIP, meaning the Tory vote could decline.
He added: “The only way we are going to get that referendum is to have a majority Conservative government.
“Even UKIP accept there will not be a UKIP government and there is a real danger that in many marginal seats voters will stop Conservatives being elected and allow Labour MPs to be elected.”