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.

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home