Cllr Chris Stevens represents Horley Central on Reigate and Banstead Council.
I joined UKIP in 2010 and soon found myself becoming an active member. I campaigned in many different areas and alongside many prominent members and I stood for election on three occasions prior to becoming an elected councillor for Horley Central in 2014.
I was a proud, hardworking and loyal member – as many local party officials can attest.
Whilst I was elated that both Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless defected to UKIP and won the subsequent by-elections, by the end of 2014 I was starting to have some serious doubts about UKIP and the tone and rhetoric the party was using, particularly around immigration.
I found that throughout the 2015 General Election period this worsened, however I ploughed on throughout the General Election hoping that change for the party was around the corner. By late 2015, I felt I could no longer justify or explain my support for UKIP and its crass, xenophobic campaigning. As someone who is rather moderate and longs for more positivism in politics it was soon clear to me that someone of my views had no place in the party.
The treatment of Carswell and Suzanne Evans by the party, for espousing a more moderate tone proved the nail in the coffin for me.
In January of this year I felt I could not bring myself to renew my membership, and so allowed it to lapse. Now I have decided to join the Conservatives – for national and local reasons.
Of course the Conservative Party contains individuals with a broad spectrum of beliefs. My own views focus around a small state, low taxation, social liberalism and social mobility. I know these are views shared by a large portion of the party and as such I know I will be at home.
Under David Cameron’s premiership, we had a government taking our country forward under difficult circumstances. I was extremely impressed by some of the figureheads in the Leave camp: Priti Patel, Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, Andrea Leadsom, Henry Smith and Dan Hannan to name but a few. Seeing the way they conducted the campaign – Gove especially inspired me to make my mind up for definite.
I was also very impressed with some Conservative Remain campaigners – Ruth Davidson was brilliant in the Scottish elections and I think Stephen Crabb is a prime example of why social mobility is so vital for the well-being of society.
Throughout the referendum I met many excellent Conservative councillors, MPs, former MPs and activists. I worked well with them and found I had more in common with these people than those of my former party.
The Party has a proud history of serving our nation throughout its 180-odd year history, with a endless list of former statesmen serving the nation. Margaret Thatcher is one of my political icons.
Conservative-controlled Reigate and Banstead Borough Council has been recognised for its achievements.
I am extremely impressed with the Council not cutting frontline services despite a total reduction from central government funding. It will be interesting to see how council develops innovative ways to deal with this continuing challenge.
The Leadership under Victor Broad is open and inclusive to all members, despite party status or opposition. I have seen disagreements and debate between members of the Conservative Group, showing me that internal debate is healthy within the Group and not all are necessarily going along with the same line by force. This is an important function of any democratic group.
Basically, the RBBC group consists of brilliant councillors, from all backgrounds and walks of life, who are genuinely committed to serving their local residents. Some have a record of long service to their residents, and to a relatively newer and younger councillor such as myself this is inspirational.
I am looking forward to getting stuck in further in my existing role as a councillor under the Conservative banner, to take pride in our achievements and to bring my loyalty to the fold.
I hope this helps convey why, not just myself, but many other councillors and members from my former party will likely and hopefully follow suite. I have no doubts that this was the right decision to make, and it is great to finally feel good about party politics once again. I do hope that other like-minded former colleagues will be welcomed, as I have been, so that together we can push forward for our excellent new government to ensure our nation will be prosperous once again.