Kettering’s MP has denied he is on the verge of joining UKIP in the wake of the party’s second by-election success.
Conservative Philip Hollobone has been installed as the bookies’ favourite to be the next MP to join Nigel Farage’s party, which now has two elected MPs in the House of Commons.
UKIP’s Mark Reckless won the Rochester and Strood by-election earlier this week, with many commentators suggesting other Tory MPs could join him and fellow defector Douglas Carswell in switching parties.
And Mr Hollobone sent the rumour mill into overdrive yesterday (Friday) when he lined up next to Mr Carswell to help with the swearing-in of Mr Reckless.
He also joined the two UKIP MPs in voting for a Labour motion on the future of the NHS.
But Mr Hollobone told the Northants Telegraph: “I am not defecting to UKIP. I was pleased to be asked to help Mark Reckless be sworn in as he is a personal friend.
“Any new MP requires two sponsors to walk him to the table in front of the Speaker’s chair to be sworn in. As there was only one UKIP MP able to do this, they needed someone else and it was civilized Parliamentary behaviour for me to agree to do so.”
Like Mr Carswell and Mr Reckless, Mr Hollobone was supported by UKIP at the 2010 general election, at which he won with a majority of 9,094 over Labour’s Phil Sawford.