The U.K. Independence Party, which wants Britain to withdraw from the European Union, rejected the suggestion of an electoral pact with Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives and said the two parties are at “war.”
UKIP leader Nigel Farage ruled out any deal with the Conservatives after Tory lawmaker Michael Fabricant, in charge of parliamentary campaigning, said it was “time to actively consider whether a rapprochement might be possible” with UKIP to address a rise in euroskepticism among British voters.
“The basis of any deal is clear: a referendum on the United Kingdom’s future membership of the European Union,” Fabricant wrote in a report to Cameron, which he also published on the Internet today. “These steps have to be taken to stop the continued hemorrhage of Conservative votes.”
The threat posed by UKIP was underscored when the party came third in a special election on Nov. 15 with 14.3 percent of the vote, compared with 26.6 percent for the Tories, which lost control of the seat to the opposition Labour Party. The next general election is due in May 2015.
Fabricant suggested offering an in-or-out referendum on U.K. membership of the EU if UKIP would pledge not to stand against Tory candidates. Such a deal could deliver the Conservatives 20-40 additional swing seats, he estimates.
He based this in part on an analysis that showed there were 21 seats in the 2010 election where UKIP’s vote was greater than the margin of Conservative defeat. On this measure, there were also 14 seats where the British National Party, which says white Britons are “second-class citizens,” got more votes than the margin of Conservative defeat.
“It’s the politics of not understanding data,” said Justin Fisher, professor of politics at Brunel University in London. “This idea presupposes that all the people who voted for those parties would otherwise have voted Tory. And it ignores the damage such a coalition can do to a party’s support among other voters.”
Farage took to Twitter Inc.’s social-networking site to respond to Fabricant’s suggestion, saying there can be “no deals with the Tories: it’s war.” He blamed Cameron for claiming in 2006 that UKIP was a party of “closet racists.”
Cameron declined to withdraw the comments after reports yesterday that a local council in Rotherham, northern England, had removed three children from a foster couple because they belonged to UKIP.
Farage told Sky News later he would be prepared to consider a pact with the Tories only if they first removed Cameron. “The real obstacle for any deal with the Conservative Party is the Conservative leader,” he said.
Cameron returned last week from a meeting of European Union leaders that failed to deliver a seven-year budget settlement. The negotiations highlighted Britain’s tense relationship with the bloc. The premier is due to set out his views on the nation’s continued involvement in the EU in a keynote speech next month.
Fifty-six percent of British voters said they’d vote to leave the EU of a referendum was held, while 30 percent want to remain in the bloc, an Opinium Research survey for the Observer newspaper last week showed. Opinium questioned 1,957 adults between Nov. 13 and Nov. 15.
Nationally, support for UKIP stands at 8 percent, according to a YouGov Plc (YOU) poll published yesterday. That compares with 9 percent for the Liberal Democrats, the junior partner in the coalition government, 33 percent for the Tories and 44 percent for Labour. YouGov questioned 1,812 adults between Nov. 22 and Nov. 23.
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