UK & World News
UKIP's Marta Andreasen Defects To The Tories
UK Independence Party MEP Marta Andreasen has revealed she is defecting to the Conservatives, saying they are the "true referendum party".
Less than a week before the Eastleigh by-election, Ms Andreasen said she was quitting, and dismissed UKIP's chances of achieving real power.
Ms Andreason, who was elected as a UKIP member of the European Parliament in 2009, hailed the Prime Minister's pledge on an in-out referendum on EU membership as a "game changer".
It comes amid speculation UKIP could perform well in the crucial electoral test. UKIP leader Nigel Farage chose not to stand as a candidate himself - but has been in the constituency trying to drum up support.
However, Ms Andreasen said she did not believe the party could offer "real leadership".
In an open letter, the South East region MEP wrote: "UKIP has good people in it at grass roots that care about the future of the United Kingdom and our place in a re-negotiated relationship with Europe.
"Unfortunately, their party leader treats any views other than his own with contempt.
"UKIP is his plaything to mould and shape in any way he sees fit, regardless of the views of others, myself included.
"His actions, surrounding himself with an old boys club of like-minded sycophants, are dictatorial in sharp contrast to those of David Cameron, who has shown he can listen, adapt and do what is right for the country, not just for personal gain."
Ms Andreasen said Mr Cameron's keynote address on Britain's relationship with the EU last month had convinced her the Conservatives were the "true referendum party".
"The Prime Minister's speech was a game changer. He promised to turn around the European freight train, which is currently heading towards a deeper federal Europe with no options for Britain," she went on.
"I was also reassured by the financial deal that David Cameron got for Britain on the EU Budget. This is a matter very close to my heart and for which I have fought hard, and it is an important step for Britain in this battle."
By contrast, the MEP said Mr Farage's decision not to stand as a candidate in Eastleigh after former Cabinet minister Chris Huhne resigned in disgrace showed UKIP was only a "pressure group".
She warned Eastleigh voters that UKIP had no chance of victory, and supporting the party risked "letting the Lib Dems in via the back door".
Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps said: "I'm delighted to welcome Marta to the Conservative Party.
"She brings a wealth of experience - and a dedication to fight for what's best for the British people in Europe.
"Her decisive words on the Prime Minister's EU budget negotiations prove that the Conservatives are the only party who can protect Britain's interests in Europe."