CLACTON'S Conservative MP Douglas Carswell has defected to UKIP – and resigned his seat triggering a by-election.

Eurosceptic Mr Carswell, who has represented the constituency since 2005, has defected to the UK Independence Party.

Speaking at a press conference in London, he said he wants to shake-up the Westminster "clique".

The backbencher, flanked by UKIP leader Nigel Farage, said he will be resigning from Parliament.

It will trigger a by-election in Clacton, at which Mr Carswell will stand for UKIP.

He said principles were more important than his personal political career.

Mr Carswell lambasted the Prime Minister and senior Conservatives was not "serious about real change"

“It's about not changing things - it's about hanging on to office,” he said.

“Once I realised that, my position in the Conservative Party became untenable."

He said the failure to take a stand against the European Union was at the heart of his decision.

“It's above all the failure to deliver on the promise of political reform that has driven me to be here.

"Europe's the one continent on the globe that is not growing, yet who in Westminster, who among our so-called leaders is prepared to envisage real change?

"As someone who's always answered directly to the independent-minded people of Essex, there is only one honourable thing for me to do.

"I must seek permission from my boss, the people of Clacton. I will now resign from Parliament and stand for UKIP in the by-election that now follows."

Mr Carswell said the decision had not been an easy one.

“I have been a member of the Conservative Party for all my adult life,” he said.

“It is full of wonderful people who want the best for Britain.

"The problem is that many of those at the top of the Conservative Party are simply not our side.

"Of course they talk the talk before elections. They say what they feel they must say to get our support when they want our support.

"But on so many issues, on modernising our politics, on recall of MPs, on controlling our borders, on bank reform, on cutting public debt, on an EU referendum, they never actually make it happen."

Mr Carswell added that he could have "muddled along" as a Conservative backbencher until next May, but he wanted to do the "honourable" thing.

Former Labour MP Ivan Henderson, who lost his seat to Mr Carswell in 2005, said: “I don’t think this is as honourable as he says.

“This is Douglas Carswell panicking because for the last few elections he has promised his electorate would be campaigning to get them out of Europe and it has worn thin with those who vote for him.

“I think he is very worried would have lost his seat to UKIP.

“It’s more of a panic move than a strategy.

“People have lost confidence in him under a conservative banner because he hasn’t be able to deliver on his promises.

“He is jumping ship hoping that UKIP can save his seat.”

A Conservative spokesman said: "This is a regrettable and frankly counterproductive decision.

“As Douglas Carswell said, the only way to get a referendum on the EU is to return a majority Conservative government."

UKIP was not immediately available for comment.

What are the odds?

PUNTERS wishing to get in on the action can back defecting Douglas Carswell to regain his Clacton seat for Ukip at a short 2/7.

Bookmaker Paddy Power has already made the by-election a two horse race, offering odds of 9/4 for the prospective Conservative candidate.

Tim Young, who will stand for Labour, is a distant third, at 25/1, while the Irish bookies offers the Liberal Democrats almost no chance, at 100/1.

Odds of 10/1 are also being offered on eccentric London Mayor Boris Johnson to stand for the reeling Tories against Carswell.

It seems unlikely, however, as he has already publicly linked himself to the Uxbridge seat, in west London. 

Who would you vote for in the Clacton by-election?