Tory donor tells David Cameron: Change tack on Europe or I’m off to Ukip

PM ‘has a year’ to turn things round or face challenge for his job

David Cameron came under fresh pressure as a senior Conservative MP warned the Prime Minister that he could face a leadership challenge if he failed to revive the party’s fortunes within a year.

Wealthy Tory donors are also threatening to switch their financial backing to the UK Independence Party (Ukip), which won more than 100 seats in this month’s local elections largely at the expense of Tory candidates.

The surging popularity of Ukip, which is now scoring more than 20 per cent support in some opinion polls, has sent shock waves through Conservative ranks and provoked fresh threats by right-wingers of an attempt to topple their leader.

In an effort to quell backbench discontent, Mr Cameron has toughened his stance on Europe and promised not to bring forward any more socially liberal measures such as gay marriage.

David Ruffley, a former Tory whip, forecast that the European Parliament elections in May 2014, when Ukip is expected to top the poll, could prove a “flashpoint” for the Prime Minister.

“I don’t think Ukip are going to win seats, but they could split the Conservative vote if they are very strong and let Labour through in those marginal seats. But I think David Cameron has got 12 months to show that his strategy works.”

The Bury St Edmunds MP said the party was united behind moves to promise a referendum on European Union membership. “I think we should give him time to see if that works, but next May could be a flashpoint,” Mr Ruffley told Sky News.

He was speaking as Lord Kalms, who gave more than £700,000 to the Tories between 2001 and 2012, hinted that senior party figures could switch allegiance to Ukip unless Mr Cameron adopts a more Eurosceptic stance.

“If Ukip has the right policies, that’s where we’ll go. I am very, very disenchanted and won’t tolerate being dragged down into Europe without some fight,” he said.

Lord Kalms lost the Tory whip in 2009 after suggesting he could “lend” his support to Nigel Farage’s party. He insisted he remained a Conservative, but warned his loyalty was “wearing very, very thin”.

One of the City’s most prominent hedge-fund managers, Andy Brough, last week joined Ukip, while another well-known fund manager, Crispin Odey, threw a party to introduce Mr Farage to potential donors.

Mr Cameron has dismissed calls for his party to form an electoral pact with Ukip to prevent the centre-right party splitting and handing victory to Labour at the next election. But members of two Tory organisations – the Bow Group think-tank, and Conservative Grassroots, which represents local parties – are planning a Commons meeting with Ukip to discuss joint tactics.

Alan Sked, who helped to found Ukip 20 years ago, delivered a withering verdict on the party. He said: “The party I founded has been captured by the radical right and has gone all anti-intellectual.” He also accused it of becoming “anti-immigrant” and racist.

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

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - Nottingham

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NOTTINGHAM - A rare high quality opportunity ...

Recruitment Genius: Tax Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Progressive practice, punching ...

Recruitment Genius: Ruby On Rails Developer

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Web Developer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This an exciting opportunity to...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible