UKIP surge threatens Midlands Conservative MPs

Politics is full of ironies. Take the rise and rise of the UK Independence Party.

Their poll rating has never been higher: 16% according to a recent Survation poll in 'The Mail on Sunday'. Nigel Farage's party will undoubtedly be buoyed by their increasing popularity. But it's Labour who have the biggest cause for celebration.

Image caption Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant is suggesting an electoral pact with UKIP

Because when UKIP prosper, it's usually at the expense of the Conservatives rather than either of the other two main parties.

In a week dominated by David Cameron's long-awaited 'big speech' on Europe, one of Britain's top pollsters, Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University, calculates nine local Conservative MPs whose constituencies are not normally considered front-rank marginals could lose their seats in 2015 if UKIP maintain their current ratings.

UKIP would not win the seats themselves, but they would draw enough support away from the Conservatives for Labour to capture them.

Professor Curtice says the local Tory MPs who could face defeat because of UKIP are:

Karen Bradley.................Staffordshire Moorlands

Andrew Griffiths............Burton

Mark Garnier...................Wyre Forest

Margot James................Stourbridge

Chris Kelly........................Dudley South

Jeremy Lefroy..................Stafford

Karen Lumley...................Redditch

Mark Pawsey....................Rugby

Christopher Pincher......Tamworth

Add to this the possibility of Conservative voters switching to UKIP in seats currently held by Labour. In the last general election, the margin of defeat for second-placed Conservatives was lower than the number of votes cast for UKIP in six of their local target seats: Dudley North, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Solihull, Telford, Walsall North and , Walsall South. So the UKIP factor threatens to make it harder still for the Conservatives to secure their longed-for overall majority. Conversely, it may also strengthen the possibility Labour's chances of securing a majority themselves.

That's why the Conservative MP for Lichfield and former government whip Michael Fabricant is suggesting an electoral pact with UKIP with the promise of an 'in-out' EU referendum.

Image caption Nigel Farage: "It's war" with the Tories

So far his recommendation has met a stony official silence from his party and a firm rejection from the UKIP leader.

Nigel Farage says "it's war" with the Tories.

But if the poll ratings continue as they are, could more and more Tory MPs be open to persuasion about a deal with UKIP? What would it take for Mr Farage to shoulder arms?

How likely is it that UKIP's current popularity will sustain through to polling day in 2015? How will they emerge from a heightened level of public scrutiny?

I will be putting these questions, and many more besides, to Professor Curtice himself on this week's Sunday Politics programme. I will also be joined by the Conservative MP for Mid Worcestershire, Peter Luff; the Labour MP for Birmingham Ladywood, Shabana Mahmood and Bill Etheridge who will be UKIP's candidate in one of those seats where the Tories narrowly missed-out last time, Dudley North.

And I hope you will join me too, from 11.00 on BBC One on Sunday morning, 27 January 2013.