David Cameron takes aim at Ukip as poll shows boost in wake of Maria Miller expenses scandal

 

Political Editor

David Cameron launched a rare direct attack on the UK Independence Party as an opinion poll suggested that Nigel Farage’s party had reaped a reward from the controversy over Maria Miller’s expenses.

The Prime Minister, who has normally ignored Ukip in the past to avoid giving it the oxygen of publicity, changed tack as he opened the Conservatives’ campaign for next month’s European Parliament elections. The anti-EU party is tipped to come first or second, pushing the Tories into a humiliating third place.

An Ipsos MORI survey put Ukip on 15 per cent, its joint highest rating after a rise of four points since last month. Labour (37 per cent) enjoyed a six-point lead over the Tories (31 per cent).

The poll found that last month’s Budget was the most popular by a Tory Chancellor since 1987 and that more people are satisfied with George Osborne’s performance than dissatisfied. But the mini-boost from the Budget appears to have been halted by the controversy which led to Ms Miller’s resignation as Culture Secretary on Wednesday.

In a speech in Washington on Friday, Mr Osborne will paint an upbeat picture for the UK and other western nations as he tries to shift the political spotlight back to the economy. He will say: “The pessimists are on the march again with their predictions of stagnation. We, the optimists, can prove them wrong again. Our nations' best days lie ahead."

Arguing that the Government has won the economic argument against Labour, the Chancellor will say that the UK economy shows that “fiscal consolidation and economic recovery go together, and undermines the pessimistic prognosis that only further fiscal stimulus can drive sustainable growth. Indeed that is precisely the wrong prescription for our economies.”

Speaking in Manchester on Thursday, Mr Cameron branded Ukip “extremists" who would not stand up for Britain's interests in Brussels. He insisted that public "apathy", rather than a rival party, was his main fear in the Euro elections.

The Prime Minister claimed the Tories were the only party with a clear plan – to "renegotiate, get the best deal for Britain, then put the decision to the British people" in a referendum. He argued that the other parties were in “two extremist camps." He said: "One [the Liberal Democrats and Labour] says ‘we love the EU.’ The other [Ukip] says ‘we hate the EU.’ One says 'we want things to stay the same'. The other says 'let's just walk away from the EU'.” He claimed only the Tories would stand up for “Britain’s national interest.”

Mr Cameron said: "When it comes to standing up for Britain in Europe, is there anyone you would trust less than a group of Ukip MEPs? They talk the talk in Britain - but as soon as they're on that plane to Brussels they change completely. When they do actually bother to vote, they don't stand up for Britain.”

The Ipsos MORI poll made grim reading for the Liberal Democrats. They are down four points to nine per cent after Nick Clegg’s two broadcast debates with Mr Farage, mirroring Ukip’s four-point rise.

The finding will increase fears among some Lib Dems that Mr Clegg made a strategic error by challenging Mr Farage to the debates. “It was a desperate move because Nick had his back to the wall but now we are in a worse place,” one internal critic said.

But Clegg allies hope the Lib Dem leader’s higher public profile will woo some pro-European voters and prevent a predicted wipeout in which the party loses all it 12 seats in the European Parliament.

Mr Farage’s personal ratings have risen since the debates. Some 40 per cent of people are satisfied with the Ukip leader’s performance and 36 per cent dissatisfied, giving him a net rating of +4, up from -10 last month. Mr Clegg’s score remained steady, with 29 per cent satisfied and 63 per cent dissatisfied, a net rating of -34. Mr Cameron’s net rating is -18 while Ed Miliband is on -21.

Life and Style
life
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Life and Style
Chen Mao recovers in BK Hospital, Seoul
health
News
Joan Rivers has reportedly been hospitalised after she stopped breathing during surgery
people81-year-old 'stopped breathing' during vocal chord surgery
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Diana from the Great British Bake Off 2014
tvProducers confirm contestant left because of illness
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
tv
Life and Style
fashion

Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, UI, JMX, FIX)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, U...

Structured Finance

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - An excellent new instruction w...

SQL Server Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Server Developer SQL, PHP, C#, Real Time,...

C#.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer C#, Win Forms, WPF, WCF, MVVM...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone