Rochester And Strood: Prime Minister Visits Kent Ahead Of By-Election

16 October 2014, 15:07 | Updated: 16 October 2014, 15:13

David Cameron has made his first public visit to the Rochester and Strood constituency as the local by-election campaign kicks off.

He was joined at the meeting at Wainscott Memorial Hall by local councillors Kelly Tolhurst and Anna Firth, the two women who are in the running to be the Conservative party candidate for the by-election.

The candidate will be chosen in a poll open to all voters in the constituency, regardless of party affiliation.

The Prime Minister answered questions from the small crowd of local people.

The opening question came from a veteran Conservative loyalist who bitterly denounced Mark Reckless, the Tory defector whose decision to stand down and fight the seat again under Ukip colours triggered the by-election.

"He lied and lied and told us blatant untruths for a long, long time,'' the man fumed. "We will never forgive him.''

The Prime Minister said that he had found Mr Reckless's decision to switch his allegiance "baffling''.

"He was elected on a Conservative ticket and he chose to change sides. He will have to explain what he has done. I think he has let people down,'' Mr Cameron said.

Mr Cameron, who was careful not to favour one potential by-election candidate or another, chose to concentrate on national issues, hinting at a big announcement on immigration policy.

"Of course it is one of the most important issues in this election,'' he said. "We will be setting out further steps in the weeks ahead.''

On Europe, he admitted that negotiating a new deal for Britain would not be easy, but he insisted that it was worth giving it a try.

"We need to get back to what we thought we were joining in the first place,'' he said.

"We don't want a European army and a European flag or European country. We live in a country called Britain - that is where it should stay - the United Kingdom.''

With Tory MPs under instructions to make at least three campaign visits to the Kent constituency - and Cabinet ministers at least five - the Conservative high command is committed to do all it can to halt Nigel Farage's bandwagon.