The UK Independence Party is planning to launch a huge campaign to persuade more people to join the party and is commissioning polling to demonstrate the threat it poses to sitting Labour and Conservative MPs.
The campaign comes after Conservative MP Douglas Carswell’s shock defection to the Eurosceptic party last week. The MP for Clacton immediately announced he would contest a by-election to seek a renewed mandate under his new party banner.
The Telegraph now reports that UKIP is presenting Conservative MPs with polling that indicates they would be more likely to be re-elected if they switched parties.
Adam Holloway, who represents Gravesham in parliament, is one such MP who has been approached. He said that he has been contacted by a UKIP MEP four times in the space of a week, trying to persuade him to change parties.
Another, Gordon Henderson, MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey, has also been asked if he wants to “do the same as Douglas Carswell”.
There are also reports that a polling company has been making telephone calls in the constituency of MP Mark Reckless, asking voters if they would back him if he stood for UKIP.
As well as MPs, UKIP is also targeting local councillors in key constituencies, asking them to abandon the Conservatives. Sources inside the party add that they are now also targeting Labour MPs.
Some MPs say they have turned down UKIP’s advances, however. Gordon Henderson said: “I’m not interested in party political manoeuvring. I’m simply not in that game. I’m not someone who is going to change because of the political winds at the time. I am a Conservative because the Conservative Party reflects many of my core principles.
“I feel a huge sense of loyalty to all those people that voted for me at the last election and all those people who worked so hard for me for so many years.
“I would not want to betray the trust they put in me.”
The Conservative Party leadership is now said to be highly worried that more MPs will defect, something which could seriously undermine the party’s campaign for re-election next year. They especially want to make sure that Carswell does not win his by-election early next month.