Cllr David Pickles has resigned the Conservative whip to sit as a UKIP councillor for Belmont ward.

I’ve known David for five years and he has always had forthright views on the direction that the Conservatives should go and they didn’t always coincide with mine.

I have no interest in stifling free speech, opinion or serious debate. However, I did feel that a recent letter in the local Guardian about housing and immigration was ill-informed and did not sit easily with a modern, changing party that seeks to represent all residents in Sutton.

That is not to say that these issues should not be discussed or that there are no problems. There quite obviously are many issues regarding our border controls and the total disarray in the Home Office, but it is vital that we discuss the situation rationally rather than risking tarring every immigrant with the same brush. Margaret Hodge, MP for Barking has just made the same mistake, referring to “her white families” who she feels should have priority over others for housing. This reference taken in isolation, would not look out of place on a BNP leaflet. What about black or Asian residents born in the UK? As the son of a Burmese immigrant, I want to tackle immigration head-on, but in a way that does not give way to hijacking by extremists.