Tory MP Mark Reckless announces his defection to Ukip at the party's conference in Doncaster. Photograph: Sky News.
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Mark Reckless becomes second Tory MP to defect to Ukip

Rochester and Strood MP says the Conservative leadership "aren't serious about the change that I think this country needs."

Just when the Tories seemed poised to take advantage of Labour's flat conference, they throw it all away again. At Ukip's gathering in Doncaster, Mark Reckless has just announced on stage that he's become the second Conservative MP, following Douglas Carswell, to defect to Nigel Farage's party. Like Carswell, he has also resigned from parliament and triggered a by-election in his Rochester and Strood constituency. 

This is, to put it mildly, terrible for David Cameron and ensures that the focus at the Conservative conference (which opens in Manchester tomorrow) will be on the right's divisions, rather than any new policy announcements. There had been rumours for several days of two Tories defecting, and CCHQ will be terrified that there may be more to come (not least if Ukip triumphs in the two forthcoming by-elections). 

Reckless, who voted against military action in Iraq yesterday (in line with Ukip's position), told his audience: "Today, I am leaving the Conservative Party and joining Ukip. These decisions are never easy, mine certainly has not been. Many have been the sleepless nights when I have talked it over with my wife, and thought about the future of our children. But it is a decision I make from optimism, a decision that is born of belief that Britain can be better and of my knowledge of how the Westminster parties hold us back, but also of my belief in the fresh start that Ukip offers. 

"We all know the problem of British politics, that people feel disconnected from Westminster. But disconnected is too mild a word; people feel ignored, taken for granted, over-taxed, over-regulated, ripped off and lied to. And they have reason to, because, with some honourable exceptions, MPs too often are not local representatives but agents of a political class. Instead of championing their constituents' interests in Westminster, too often they champion their party's interests in their constituencies.

"We have even evolved a particular language to describe the way in which MPs betray their constituents, they are called brave, or mature, or pragmatic, or realistic, but all those words are euphemisms for one thing, which is to break their promises to their constituents. Well, I remember the promises I made to my constituents in Rochester and Strood at the last election, and I intend to keep them. I promised we would cut immigration, I promise we would cut the deficit so we could cut taxes, I promised we would decentralise power, not least over housing numbers, I promise we would have a more open and accountable politics, and I promised, above all, that we would help get our country out of the European Union. 

"And shall I tell you something, I've found that it's impossible to keep those promises as a Conservative, and that is why I'm joining Ukip." 

He added: "The problem is those at the top of the Conservative Party, they are not on our side, they aren't serious about the change that I think this country needs."

As well as being an obvious gift to Labour, as any defection is, Reckless's move will also help its efforts to "Toryfy" Ukip, which has begun to make advances in Labour territory. With two Conservative MPs on board, it becomes harder for Farage to reject the charge that his party is "Torier than the Tories". In response, Labour's Michael Dugher said: "This is a hammer blow to David Cameron's already weakened authority. On the eve of his conference we again see that Conservatives' confidence in Cameron is plummeting. David Cameron has always pandered to his right, and even they are now deserting him.

"This also underlines that UKIP are a party of Tory people, Tory policies and Tory money. It is clearer than ever that only Labour has a plan to make everyday working people across the country better off."

Last year, Reckless blamed his defeat to Labour in 2005 on Ukip, writing: "Yes, my majority was twice as big as top Ukip vote anywhere in country, but I lost in 2005 (by 213) cos Ukip stood + got c.1500." Expect that to be true for 20+ Conservatives in 2015. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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The idea that sitting all day behind a desk increases your output is a fantasy

If you don’t trust people, at least make sure that you imprison them, seems to be the idea.

Scruffy and tieless, I was the odd one out. Taking a break from research in the London Library, I settled at the bar of an Italian restaurant and resumed reading Tony Collins’s excellent book Sport in Capitalist Society. While the hedge-fund managers looked askance, the young Hungarian waiter recognised one of his own. “That was the subject of my PhD,” he explained, before giving me a sparkling history of sport and Hungarian society.

He now juggles waiting tables with writing articles. It’s not easy. He tells me that when he rereads his old academic work, “Sometimes I need a dictionary!” Like many other people in today’s economy, he balances different jobs, the remuneration and fulfilment varying significantly.

As you have probably noticed, it seems that almost everyone is employed but hardly anyone has a job. Of the 42 million people of working age in Britain, 23 million are in a full-time job; roughly 14 million are full-time parents or carers; most of the rest work part-time, or are self-employed, or work for a business that is so small that it is, in effect, a form of self-employment. The “job” – the salary, the subsidised canteen, the pension – is on the wrong side of history. That is both liberating and scary.

There are two separate points here. The first, deriving from the privilege of choice, is that some people (I am one of them) are happier with the variety and freedom of self-employment. The second is that many people do not have a choice: solid, dependable jobs are a dead concept. We had better get used to fending for ourselves, because we are going to have to.

The phrase “portfolio career” was popularised by the management thinker Charles Handy. “I told my children that they would be well advised to look for customers, not bosses,” as Handy put it. “The important difference is that the price tag now goes on people’s produce, not their time.”

This transition from time-serving to genuine contribution can be good news for workers and employers alike. The art of being an employee is to string things out while pretending to be busy. The art of being self-employed is the opposite: getting things done well and efficiently, while being open to taking on new work. Employees gain an incentive to look effortful, the self-employed to look effortless.

The idea that sitting constantly behind a desk increases output, which underpins the old concept of a job, is a fantasy derived from control: if you don’t trust people, at least make sure that you imprison them. As an unfortunate consequence, the projection of phoney “busyness” consumes more energy than actual work and brings a kind of compound stress: always bustling around, never moving forward. “Never walk past the editor’s office without carrying a piece of paper,” young journalists are advised.

When I turned pro as a cricketer, an old hand told me that if I ever felt lost at practice, I should untie my shoelaces and then do them up again. “We don’t measure success by results but by activity,” as Sir Humphrey quips in Yes Minister. Ironically, I had never realised that my career as a sportsman – apparently playful and unserious – would prove to be the outlier for opposite reasons. Where most careers have drifted towards freelance portfolios, professional sport has tightened the leash. When you have to eat, sleep and train according to strict rules, your job is at one extreme end of the control-of-freedom spectrum. Yet even in elite sport there is more room for semi-professionalism than the system usually allows, especially in games – such as cricket – where physical fitness is necessary but not sufficient.

Yet the reality of the portfolio career inevitably brings new problems that are bound up with wider forces. A life that is spent moving from one institution to another – from school, to university, to a lifelong job – is becoming exotic, rather than the norm. For most of us, there will be no retirement party, no carriage clock. It is not just finding income that is being devolved downwards; so, too, is the search for meaning, purpose and identity. We live in what Handy calls a “de-institutionalised society”.

There are civilising aspects to the trend. First, the new employment landscape reduces the likelihood of people wasting their lives in the wrong job just because it is safe. Handy cites data suggesting that 80 per cent of employees feel dissatisfied in corporate jobs while 80 per cent are happy leading freelance lives. Nor does the old lie – that of backloading happiness, with corporate sacrifice giving way to happy retirement – stack up. We are better off balancing duties and pleasures all the way through.

Second, the decline of the job-for-life may gradually undermine the assumption that everyone’s wealth and prospects (let alone their value) can be determined by a couple of questions about an employer’s address. Social assumptions based on (apparent) occupation are increasingly ridiculous. Guess who the scholar is in the Italian restaurant: the waiter. It’s a good lesson. Your Uber driver could be a landscape architect, funding his professional passion with part-time top-ups.

The language of employment (“Where do you work?”) has been slow to catch up with this reality. When asked, “What do you do?” a freelancer can give a full and interesting answer, only to prompt the follow-up question, “So, what do you do, then?” If conversation becomes less like a mortgage questionnaire, that can only be a good thing.

Hugo Rifkind, writing recently in the Times, admired the Scandinavian-inspired decoupling of taste from wealth. “It is a ­better world . . . where you are not judged on the lineage of your sideboard.” I am more radical. It is a better world when you are not judged on your job.

Better or not – and like it or not – we will have to get used to it. 

Ed Smith is a journalist and author, most recently of Luck. He is a former professional cricketer and played for both Middlesex and England.

This article first appeared in the 05 February 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Putin's war