The Conservatives could win 40 extra parliamentary seats and heal their long-standing wounds over Europe if they can strike a deal with the UK Independence Party, David Cameron is told today.
Michael Fabricant will become the first high-profile Tory to acknowledge publicly the damage being done by the anti-EU party to the Tories in the marginal seats they need to capture in order to secure an overall majority at Westminster.
He is calling on the Prime Minister to set out plans for a referendum on EU membership in exchange for Ukip not standing in the next general election. He told i: "This pact could yield an additional 20 to 40 seats, perhaps more, in 2015 if Ukip cooperates. The alternative, which both David Cameron and Ukip will have to consider, might mean a more pro-EU Labour government."
Mr Fabricant also argues that the move would enable the Conservative Party to repair the damage that the issue of Europe has caused it since the 1980s. Mr Fabricant played a key role in the Tory by-election campaign this month in Corby, where Ukip came third with more than 5,000 votes. The party is also expected to poll strongly in this week's by-election in Rotherham after the local council's decision to remove three children from foster parents because they were Ukip members.
Since stepping down as a government whip two months ago, Mr Fabricant has been responsible for Tory strategy for fighting by-elections and marginal seats.
The Prime Minister once claimed that Ukip members were mainly "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists", but Mr Fabricant argues the two parties are now in tune with each other – and the voters – on Europe. Mr Fabricant even suggested the Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, should be given a job in a future Tory administration. Mr Farage recently said he would not contemplate a pact with the Tories unless it was given an absolute promise "written in blood" to stage a "proper referendum" on Europe.
William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, yesterday ruled out any form of EU referendum in the near future. He said a vote should be left until "we see how crisis in the Eurozone plays out".
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