Three Conservative MPs last night called for an electoral deal between their party and UKIP at the next General Election to prevent a split in the anti-EU right-wing vote. Douglas Carswell, Peter Bone and Jacob Rees-Mogg said that such a deal was necessary to prevent the Conservatives being ousted from power next year.
The local elections saw UKIP make headway in Tory areas such as Castle Point, Brentwood, Basildon and Maidstone, depriving the Conservatives of control of these councils.
Writing on his blog, Douglas Caswell said: “If David Cameron is as serious about an In/Out vote in 2017 as he says he is, and if Nigel Farage is as serious about Brexit [Britain leaving the European Union] as he claims, the two of them need to do a deal.
“The law already allows joint candidates. We have a list of MPs on both sides of the House who in October 2011 showed that they are serious about securing an EU referendum.
“If the alternative is Ed Miliband as Prime Minister, and no chance of a referendum, surely a pact is worth considering?”
Speaking to the BBC last night, Jacob Rees-Mogg said the case of a Conservative-UKIP “coupon” was now stronger than ever: “With the promise of the referendum, the Conservative party and UKIP are moving in exactly the same direction – offering the British people a final decision on whether we have continued membership of the EU. That surely pushes towards a coupon of some kind.”
Senior party figures have ruled out such a pact, however. Party chairman Grant Shapps last night in response to Mr Rees-Mogg: “We’re not going to have a pact or joint candidates, or whatever. It can’t happen on a technical basis because we do not allow joint candidates to stand. We are a single party, no other party would have joint candidates.”
“It’s not going to happen because we’re the Conservative party. We are the best chance to offer an in/out referendum, the only chance,” he added.
Education Secretary Michael Gove also told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning: “I don’t believe that what we need to do is to have a pact, absolutely not.”
He added: “What we need to do is recognise that Nigel Farage and others have articulated the concerns of a section of the electorate.”