Tories can win back votes from UKIP, Theresa May says


Theresa May: "We are conscious that we need to work hard to get those votes back for the election"

The Conservatives can win back voters who have deserted them in favour of the UK Independence Party, Home Secretary Theresa May has insisted.

UKIP made gains in local elections as the Tories lost control of 10 councils.

Senior Tory David Davis is calling for a planned referendum on the European Union to be brought forward to counteract the UKIP threat.

Mrs May dismissed the idea but said the public needed "greater certainty" that a referendum would happen.

She said Prime Minister David Cameron had made it clear a referendum on the UK's membership of the EU would take place early in the next parliament.

UKIP, which campaigns for the UK to leave the EU, averaged 25% of the vote in the wards where it was standing in Thursday's elections and won more than 140 seats.

In response to Mrs May's comments, UKIP leader Nigel Farage, said: "She is asking us to trust the PM on a matter of a European referendum. He has a remarkably bad track record of keeping his word on this particular matter."

In opposition, Mr Cameron promised to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty amending the EU constitution but, once in power, said he was unable to do so because it had already been ratified.

'More straight talking'

Mr Davis, who lost the contest to become Tory leader to David Cameron in 2005, said UKIP's policies on law and order, immigration, taxation, foreign affairs, and Europe "mimic a simplified 1980s Tory manifesto".

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, he said the Conservatives must break the impression that they were "privileged and out of touch", "deal properly with fears over immigration" and urgently take steps to cut taxes.


After the Conservatives suffered a drubbing in the local elections and support leached away to UKIP, backbenchers, including the former leadership contender David Davis, are urging David Cameron to break the impression of being privileged and out of touch and to bring forward the planned European Union referendum.

Theresa May has rejected calls to hold the referendum before the next election, but said the Tories must give voters "greater certainty" that they will be given a say on Britain's EU membership.

It's a curious phrase - but points to the fact that despite David Cameron's speech on Europe in January where he promised a referendum, following negotiations, by 2017, too many people still don't believe it will happen.

All three major parties have offered a referendum on the issue before, but there hasn't been one since 1975.

The desire for a referendum is something UKIP have tapped into and the Tory leadership know they now need to show they will keep their promise on it.

There must be "more straight talking and fewer focus groups; more conventional Tory policies, not because they are Tory, but because they work; less pandering to metropolitan interest groups; and please, please, no more Old Etonian advisers".

The prime minister has pledged to hold an in-out referendum on the EU during the early part of the next parliament - by the end of 2017 at the latest - if the Conservatives win the next general election.

But he has first vowed to renegotiate the UK's position within the EU.

Mr Davis, however, said the vote should be held ahead of next year's European elections, "otherwise Nigel Farage will characterise those elections as 'the referendum the Tories wouldn't let you have'".

Mrs May told the BBC the party would learn lessons from the local elections and would work hard to bring back those voters who left the Conservatives and voted for UKIP.

She said she believed the timing of the referendum promised by Mr Cameron was right but that the party would look at giving "some greater certainty". And she insisted the referendum would be "on the basis of a renegotiated settlement".

"I think what we need to do is be able to show people that we will hold that referendum and we will hold that referendum after the next general election."

'Badly off track'

Former Conservative party chairman Lord Tebbit suggested Mr Cameron immediately put legislation in place to allow for a referendum and set a date for it.

That, he said, would present a real challenge to Labour leader Ed Miliband to make it known where he stood.

Lord Tebbit also accused Mr Cameron of going "badly off track" by veering too close to the Liberal Democrats. He said too many people were beginning to prefer what UKIP was offering - which he called the "politics of the common ground".

"Most people in the country agree we are being mucked around by our friends in Brussels... most people think that immigration is too high... most think that welfare has got out of kilter."

Start Quote

It certainly would look a fair bet that our vote will be considerably smaller [in 2015]”

End Quote Sir Nick Harvey Lib Dem MP

Earlier, Sarah Newton, the Conservative Party deputy chairman, said the government should consider bringing forward legislation in this parliament guaranteeing a referendum would be held.

But Mrs May refused to confirm this would happen.

BBC political correspondent Iain Watson said UKIP's performance also raised questions for Labour, with its internal debate over whether to call for a referendum on EU membership likely to heighten between now and 2015.

Contests took place in 27 English county councils and seven unitary authorities, as well as in Anglesey. About 2,300 council seats were up for grabs in England, in a major mid-term test for the coalition government.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    a labour win at the next general election then , still right wing policies and not socialist ones but maybe not so vindictive to the elderly , poor and sick

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    Local council elections should be - and are - about local issues, but are flavoured by national mood music. Many 'old party' councillors returned were so because voters do have loyalty, particularly to locals with integrity who have reasonably served them in the past.

    It may - and probably will - not be so at the next National election. Farage is pushing important buttons and the lights are on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    It is more evidence the Torys are out of touch. First calling UKIP clowns then saying we will carry on doing the same thing but faster.

    The upshot is if the Tories acted upon the electorates issues then UKIP will not have so many voters.

    Labour needs to show it has some policy. Not just an anti cut party, give us a choice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    this is not about political parties. this is about what we, the people, are concerned about in our great nation. if the politicians don't listen, more people will continue to vote with those who align their ideals with ours. wake up and smell the coffee.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    The three 'main' parties should have listned a long time ago to public opinion, not just nod their heads and then when in power do nothing!

    Restrict immigration PROPERLY, not just massage figures, end our puppy dog obidience to the EU masters, kick out criminals when WE want to not when the human rights judges say so.

    Maybe then you might get our respect and votes!

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    UKIP say what most people think but are too afraid to say out loud for fear of being called various derogatory things... the fact is, we're full and our services can't cope, the EU costs us billions and we've let the dregs of Europe and the rest of the world in that have bled us dry

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    I heard Theresa May this morning & it was a poor performance. I don't think she really believed what she was saying

    It is clear that there is a big disconnect between Conservative leadership & even their own activists Appointing more Eton types is not going to help

    Thatcher connected with the average worker, Cameron & his clones do not.

    Johnson has charisma but is still an Eton clone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    The message that this country has gone to the dogs is easy to get across, but I'd be interested to know what UKIP's policies are for deficit reduction, growth and welfare reform...

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    "The Conservatives can win back UKIP voters"

    Definitely the Tories can do that. After all, if these folk were to vote UKIP in the General Election, they would cause the two things they least want in life. They would cause a Labour government and they would never get an EU referendum. Voting UKIP at local or MEP level makes sense. In a General Election, it makes no sense at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    It looks like C&C's chickens have come home to roost despite all the warnings they have been given. By not paying attention to the electorate they have allowed UKIP to become a serious threat and if this result is carried forward to the General Election the Coalition parties will be buried in the political wilderness for a very long time. It can't all be protest votes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    UKIP will split the conservative vote and will hand Labour victory on a plate at the next general election - FACT.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Stunning performance by UKIP in England. Labour majority almost halved in a safe seat in which UKIP come second!

    It will be very interesting to see how they do in the Welsh, N.Ireland and Scottish regions given their policy amounts to the deletion of directly elected local parliaments?

    Maybe just shows how different all the regions of the current Kingdom are so radically different.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    I am really thrilled that Dave and Theresa are listening to me . It's an unusual experience and yet strangely amusing to hear that the Tory boys and girls really are interested in me . I would like them to do something rather than tell me that more of the same will cut it . Stop immigration now . Reduce welfare by 50%. Stop foreign aid . Vote on EU now . That's listening , Dave . Gone deaf ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    Many Tories yearn for an actual Tory Party, with true Tory values and policies - not yet another 'Social Democracy Lite'. We had more than enough of this under New Labour; look how that ended up - total, abject failure.

    The success of UKIP should come as no surprise to anyone. This Tory is giving them serious consideration, and I am far from alone in that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    You will not get my vote back, you talk about hard work? Have you worked hard for the people in your country? Don't blame the scottish for not wanting your rule. You sell your own people out, 2.56 million trying to find work and your bringing in cheap slave labour. How do we survive when the prices are rising and your pointing the finger, when you should look to your own parties failures. Goodbye

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    The Tory party will never get my vote again, I was a local party worker, but gave up when they stopped being a party that had polices that were supportable by the masses.
    Having a rightwing, we know what is best, let's screw the masses for the few will not get them support

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    What the Tories need to realise is that UKIP have tuned in to the concerns of very large numbers of the UK population when they have simply ignored them and carried on regardless with their "pet " policies.

    Until they actually do something to address those concerns and stop issuing empty platitudes then the rise of UKIP will continue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    If Cameron thinks he is going to negotiate a new deal with the EU befoe a referendum, then all voters in the EU should be able to take part in that referendum.
    Lets see some real democracy in the EU.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    For decades governments of all hues have ignored the wishes of the people and done their own thing because "they know best". This attitude left many people, myself included, feeling disenfranchised. UKIP seems to be offering the things that people want, and not just on Europe and immigration. Is it any wonder that they have a large following?

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    No, Ms May, you can't win back Conservative voters. You're far too arrogant.

    If you want to win back voters, let's see all MPs take a 20% pay cut. Then we'll know you're serious.


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