THE entire executive committee of the UK Independence party's Bolton branch have switched allegiance to Robert Kilroy-Silk's new Veritas party.
The move comes amid suggestions that hundreds of members across the north west are making the same switch from Kilroy-Silk's former party, and other branches are considering a similar move.
Spokesman for Veritas Bolton Ian Upton confirmed the switch and said that UKIP branches in Manchester, Cheshire and Lancashire had `raised concerns' with him over UKIP's running of the party. "They are freely supporting what's being done in Bolton branch," he said.
Chairman of South Manchester branch Tony Moor said: "There are rumours that some branches are switching over to Veritas, but I would not like to say which ones they are."
Two weeks ago Robert Kilroy-Silk set up Veritas after leaving UKIP. In December he fell out with its chairman Roger Knapman, who would not allow him to challenge for leadership.
Secretary for Veritas Bolton branch and prospective parliamentary candidate Dave Jones claims that the branch was suspended from UKIP after it tried to support Kilroy-Silk's takeover bid in a vote that was not recognised by the party.
Veritas National Organiser Alex Stephenson said he knew of three or four other UKIP branches in the north west region who were thinking of switching to Veritas. "Some of them will be coming over in the next weeks, but we don't want to pre-empt them by announcing who they are just yet," he said.
Four branches would represent just over 20 percent all UKIP branches in the north west, which has 14 in the area, and hundreds of members. So far the only confirmed switchover has been the Bolton branch.
North Manchester branch chairman of UKIP Pete Reeve denied that the branch was switching parties.
Ian Upton said that numerous UKIP members were applying for membership. "This is an evolution from the old party not a revolution, the type of people moving over feel strongly democracy, who are passionate about living in a free country," he said.
Yesterday there was no accurate figures for north west membership because Veritas' central office had been overwhelmed by applications. The only indication came from Alex Stephenson, who said: "In the north west we are talking in terms of hundreds."
Mr. Stephenson also claims that Vertias has prospective parliamentary candidates who had defected from the mainstream political parties to stand for them at election. "We will be announcing a full list in the next few weeks and people will be surprised at who is on the list," he said.
But the four Veritas prospective party candidates already announced in the north west, David Jones (Bolton south east) Mike Ford (Bolton west), Alan Ainscow (Bolton north east) and Carl Faulkner (Rochdale), have all previously stood as UKIP candidates.
This is despite claims from Kilroy-Silk that Veritas would have no dealings with do with UKIP and its old regime. Ian said: "I will not discuss any links with UKIP and we are nothing to do with them anymore."
UKIP Euro MP for the north west John Whittaker denied suggestions that his membership had been sabotaged. He said: "There is a trickle of members going that way, but Kilroy-Silk has taken with him some of the awkward ones. For the party this is a great move."
Last week UKIP announced 2000 members in the region, and a spokesman said: "People who did not want to join because of Kilroy-Silk are now coming over to the party now."
Both parties are campaigning for the UK's withdrawal from the European Union, and Veritas also has policies on the reduction of asylum and immigration.
Source: Manchester Evening News, Wednesday 16 February 2005