Peter Mandelson tells Prime Minister: Stay strong on EU

Fears of a Ukip surge at local elections must not make David Cameron tack to the right on Europe, says former commissioner

Peter Mandelson today warns David Cameron not to move further to the right on Europe, even if the UK Independence Party takes seats from the Conservatives at this week's local elections.

Nigel Farage's party is expected to make gains in the mainly county council elections in England and Wales on Thursday, at the expense of Tory councillors.

But in an article for The Independent on Sunday, Lord Mandelson, the former business secretary and EU trade commissioner, says the Prime Minister must not change course and must continue to try to get the best for the UK out of reform in Europe – but only on the basis that Britain retains a central role.

Ukip is expected to poll at least 12 per cent of the votes – although experts pointed out this would translate into just a handful of seats. Some Conservative MPs are warning of an electoral bloodbath, where hundreds of councillors could be lost, leaving the party weakened at its grassroots before the general election. With many of the polls taking place in the English shire counties, the Tories are fighting from a high watermark in 2009 and are expected to concede scores of council seats to all parties, not just to Ukip. At the same time, Ed Miliband is under pressure to show Labour is truly a "one nation" party by making inroads in councils in the South-east, after coming a humiliating fourth in the Eastleigh by-election.

In his article, Lord Mandelson says: "Whatever the results for Ukip in this week's local elections – and whether it represents the political 'earthquake' its leader, Nigel Farage, predicts – we mustn't be shifted off course in getting the best deal for the UK in Europe. Long-term national interest must be our guide, not short-term politics.

"Likewise, whatever you think of David Cameron's motives and the anti-European politics of some of his party, we should not make the mistake of dismissing talk of reform just because it comes from this quarter."

The former EU commissioner says Europe needs to change to be economically successful and points out that it is not only Eurosceptics in Britain who are raising concerns about the EU's governance. Lord Mandelson describes the phrase "repatriation of powers" as a "non-starter" because other EU nations believe Britain should not be treated as a special case. But he adds: "Cameron's basic agenda for EU reform is one we can engage with because it predates him."

The Prime Minister attempted to pre-empt election losses by refreshing his Downing Street operation last week, selecting Boris Johnson's brother Jo as head of a beefed-up policy unit. But Jesse Norman, who was last week appointed to a new Conservative parliamentary board, attracted criticism yesterday after he claimed Eton's public service "ethos" was the reason so many of its former pupils were at the heart of government. Mr Norman clarified his remarks on Twitter, insisting that he was defending Eton rather than attacking other institutions.

Meanwhile, Mr Farage is facing criticism that his party failed to vet candidates after several were revealed to have anti-Semitic, racist or homophobic views. It emerged that some Ukip candidates were on a former membership list of the BNP, and some have been suspended.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy