Thursday, 25 February 2010

Conservatives Aware of UKIP Challenge

In 2009 European Elections UKIP beat both Labour and the Liberal Democrats to second place, securing two MEPs in the process. It’s often assumed that UKIP voters are Conservatives unhappy with their party’s stance on Europe and so their strength in the region is cause for concern to local Tory candidates. Given the national situation between the main parties it’s not surprising that the Conservative candidate George Eustice is confident of becoming the next MP for Camborne and Redruth. But as a former UKIP candidate himself Eusitce is aware of the need to win these voters over

Eustice feels that a vote for him is the sensible choice for euro-sceptics at a General Election. “My sense is that many people who voted UKIP in the euro elections will support me in the General Election because to support UKIP is to reward the very Lib Dem MP who refused to vote in favour of a referendum on the EU constitution when it was debated in parliament.”

In fact, all Liberal Democrat MPs in Cornwall followed their leadership’s direction to abstain from the referendum vote. With the EU such a contentious issue in this part of the country it will be interesting to see if this will have any affect two years on. Derek Thomas, the Conservative candidate in St. Ives, shares Eustice’s view that euro-sceptics should vote Tory.

“UKIP voters will need to choose their own priorities, a change in Government at a time when our finances are in disarray or an isolated position on Europe from a place where they can not possible change things.” Thomas feels other issues, such as housing and transport, will be more important to the voters in St. Ives and intends to focus on these rather than Europe.

The EU is unlikely to become a major national issue as David Cameron does not want the ideological splits within the party to be on display during the campaign. Locally, however, they may need to win over UKIP voters in order to secure victory in these close contests and how the Conservatives deal with this could be the difference between success and failure.


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