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 1132.

    For a long time the people have been sending a clear message to all parties. Through the media letters pages and surveys on the street. The parties expected us all to put up and shut up. The British people are sick and tired of being in the dilemma we are faced with and nothing gets done.just lies. If UKIP does nothing else ever then it has managed to wake up the main parties to how we all feel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    The most troubling thing in these local Elections is the percentage of people who did not go and vote , all parties should be concerned over this , is this the larger percentage saying , you are all Tarred with the same brush , and all in it for yourselves , because the politics is " " Same Old ,Same Old ""

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    This has served to prove you can only fool a limited number of people all of the time.

    Maybe now the Government will listen and will deliver what it promised in it's manifesto and stop trying to baffle people with inane jabber.

    People have voted for change and change they must have.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    Let's be clear that these were local elections not national government, so the results may not be extrapolated towards those of a general election.

    I'm not sure whether the UKIP have won Tory voters, or whether the Tories have driven them away all on their own (they have with me!).

    Maybe they should look at the numbers of people who didn't vote at all.

  • 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.


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