Tories urged not to panic about UKIP threat

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Media captionLynton Crosby makes clear the Conservative Party will not be changing its policies to deal with UKIP

So what to do with UKIP?

That is one of the questions that is underlying the Conservative Party conference.

Some talk of a pact. Others talk of tougher policies on Europe or immigration. What is now clear is that the leadership position is "change nothing".

Having spent the day talking to senior members of the party, the analysis seems to be this: repeat ad nauseam what the Conservatives have achieved in office.

Thus the conference posters declaiming: "Crime down, welfare capped, immigration down."

MPs are being urged to remind voters that David Cameron has vetoed an EU treaty, pulled Britain out of the euro bail-out mechanism and legislated to ensure there will be a referendum before any further powers are given to Europe.

Talk, too, of the requirement for a Tory majority to achieve an EU in-out referendum. And shout from the roof tops that a vote for UKIP will take Ed Miliband into Downing Street.

And now we have it from the horse's mouth, so to speak. I have just bumped into the Conservatives' campaign director, Lynton Crosby, a man who rarely speaks in public.

But on camera today he told me that the party will not change its policies to accommodate UKIP. He said the party should focus on the future and the policies it was taking to the British people. And he said that would be enough to deal with UKIP.

You can watch the clip at the top of this page - here is the transcript of the brief exchange:

JL: We are talking about UKIP this morning. How worried should the party be by it?

LC: I think the party is most importantly focused on the future and the policies it is taking to the British people and that's what it should focus on.

JL: And that's enough?

LC: Of course.

JL: So no change?

LC: No.

The question is whether this will be enough. It is a gamble based, I am told by others, on the assumption that voters distinguish between elections that matter and those that don't.

Thus many voters who back UKIP in opinion polls and at council and European elections will, so the theory goes, return to the Tories at a general election where the only choice is between David Cameron and Ed Miliband.

Essentially the Tory leadership see the UKIP issue as a case for party management, what one Downing Street aide described as the Corporal Jones strategy of telling Conservatives "don't panic" over the next 20 months, it will turn out alright on the night.

"Essentially we are saying to the party don't panic, and trust us," one Cameron adviser said.

"The trouble is that those are two requests the party often ignores!"