‘Lend us your votes’: Ukip's Nigel Farage steals in to Conservative Party Conference to lure Tory support

 

Nigel Farage will on Monday urge the Tory faithful to “lend us your votes” in next year’s European elections as he makes a scene-stealing series of appearances at the Conservative conference.

The UK Independence Party leader, who will speak at three events on the conference fringe, will repeat his forecast that his buoyant party is set to win the popular vote in next year’s elections to the European Parliament.

Mr Farage told The Independent he was not travelling to Manchester to win over permanent converts to his party but to appeal to Conservatives to switch allegiance temporarily.

“I’m speaking to the hardcore Tory faithful – they are still members of that pretty depleted party. Basically it’s a ‘Lend us your votes’ message.

“Conservatives who believe in an independent Britain should forget their normal loyalty to party and use the opportunity of the European elections to vote Ukip.”

Mr Farage argued that the surge in support for his party had forced Mr Cameron to drop his previous opposition to a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union and that a strong showing for Ukip next year would send “reverberations” through Brussels.

Ukip officials claim that Mr Cameron has given up on the European contests in eight months’ time and will concentrate the Tories’ electoral firepower on the 2015 general election.

Mr Farage’s day-long visit to the Manchester conference has caused dismay among organisers who have sought to minimise publicity for his tour of the fringe.

They removed a listing from the conference handbook advertising an appearance by Mr Farage at a debate staged by the Bruges Group, whose honorary president was Baroness Thatcher.

The former Tory chairman Lord Tebbit, who succeeded Lady Thatcher as the group’s president, accused the party of “a lot of over-reaction”. He said: “It is not unusual to have people who are not members of the party at a conference. Farage’s views on Europe are similar to those of most people in the Bruges Group.”

Asked what Lady Thatcher would have made of the move to censor publicity about the meeting, he replied: “Farage would not have existed if Margaret Thatcher were still leader.”

Mr Farage will also speak at meetings organised by the right-wing Freedom Association and by Forest, the smokers’ rights group.

Although the Tory leadership continues to rebuff the idea of an electoral pact with Ukip, a BBC survey found one Tory councillor in five supports the move to avoid splitting the right-of-centre vote. The move has been supported by prominent Conservative MPs including Michael Fabricant, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Peter Bone.

But William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, said on Sunday: “We don’t make electoral pacts with other parties. We do make pacts with the voters of other parties and win over the voters of other parties.”

Mr Cameron said: “We have lost support to Ukip and we need to win that back.”

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