MSM tries to hint at UKIP and Conservative unity
UKIP: Grown-ups ‘like Gove’ needed for Tory election pact
Nigel Farage on Michael Gove as future Conservative leader: “He’d be the right kind of person”
26 November 2012 Last updated at 15:07
UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage has said he would consider an electoral pact with the Conservatives only if someone “grown up and sensible like Michael Gove” was in charge.
He described the education secretary as more “open-minded” than David Cameron.
Senior Tory MP Michael Fabricant has suggested UKIP might not field candidates in return for a promise of an in/out referendum on EU membership.
Mr Farage has previously said any Tory pledge must be “written in blood”.
But Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps “categorically” ruled out a deal with UKIP.
In an internal report to the prime minister, Mr Fabricant, who oversees campaigns on the ground, says UKIP, which wants the UK to withdraw from the European Union, poses a threat to the Conservatives in crucial marginal constituencies.
He proposes a pact, in which the Conservatives would promise a referendum after 2015 and in return UKIP would not stand against Tory candidates.
He believes it could help the Conservatives win an extra 20 to 40 seats at the next general election.
But Mr Cameron angered UKIP in 2006 by describing the party’s members as “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists, mostly”.
Asked about Mr Fabricant’s idea, Mr Farage told BBC Two’s Daily Politics: “If Cameron went and somebody pragmatic, grown-up and sensible like Michael Gove was leader, we might think then that we could sit round a table and have a proper discussion.
“Open-minded, doesn’t throw abuse around and thinks issues through – he would be the right kind of person.”
Mr Fabricant told the same programme: “What did Nigel Farage say? ‘It will have to be signed in blood.’
“If we feel in 24 months’ time that we want a deal with UKIP – and it may not be necessary or advantageous – I will donate the blood.”
Asked whether Mr Farage could be offered a cabinet seat as part of a deal, Mr Fabricant said: “I think Nigel Farage has got a lot of talent and I know we bring in people from other parties to do things in government, but that would be a judgment for David Cameron and George Osborne.”
Asked whether some UKIP members were “closet racists”, he added: “The truth is some UKIP members are. I’m going to be very controversial and say some Conservative members might well be and Labour members and Liberal Democrats too. I heard [Mr Cameron’s 2006] interview and I don’t think it needs retraction at all.
“Nigel Farage is an intelligent man. He will do what he thinks is best for the country in its relations with the EU. Let’s see what happens in two years’ time.”
But Mr Shapps said: “I want to win the next election outright of course for the Conservatives so we have an outright majority and we don’t have to be in coalition.
“But I want to do that with Conservative candidates fighting and winning on their own ground and on their own terms and that’s exactly what we are going to do. So I can categorically rule out any form of electoral pact with UKIP or anyone else.”
A Downing Street source said: “Michael Fabricant does a great job campaigning in by-elections but he doesn’t speak for the party on this issue.
“The safest way to protect Britain’s interests is to vote Conservative. That’s why we’ll have Tory candidates in every seat at the next election.”
But Labour vice-chairman Michael Dugher said: “For Number 10 to say that the vice-chairman of the Conservative Party doesn’t speak for the Conservatives is ridiculous.
“It shows how weak David Cameron has become and is yet another sign that Cameron’s Tories are completely divided over Europe. Instead of fighting for a deal for Britain on the EU budget, the Tories are too busy trying to do a deal for the Tory party with UKIP.”