Vote Ukip where Tories can't win, oldest Conservative think tank says

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Vote Ukip where Tories can't win, oldest Conservative think tank says

Exclusive Ben Harris-Quinney, the Bow Group's chairman, said Tory supporters had to consider voting Ukip because a Conservative majority 'is now very unlikely to happen'. Ukip leader Nigel Farage welcomed the news

In April 2010 as the UKIP candidate for Buckingham, Farage decided to fly over the constituency in a plane towing a banner containing the words 'Vote for your country - Vote UKIP'

Christopher Hope
By  Christopher Hope, Chief Political Correspondent

8:01PM BST 04 May 2015

Comments1649 Comments

The Conservatives’ oldest thinktank has been plunged into civil war after four senior Tory patrons said they disowned an attack on Tory leader David Cameron by the group’s own chairman.

Ben Harris-Quinney, chairman of the Bow Group, has caused consternation among senior Tories by telling Conservative supporters in areas where the party cannot win should to vote for the UK Independent Party.

Mr Harris-Quinney said people should vote Ukip in south Thanet - were Ukip leader Nigel Farage is trying to win - as well as Clacton and Rochester and Strood, which are being fought by former Tory MPs Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless, as well as in other seats "across the north of England.

Mr Harris-Quinney said Tory supporters had to consider voting Ukip because a Conservative majority “is now very unlikely to happen”.

He criticised the Conservative high command by repeatedly snubbing Ukip. He said it had been "a strategic failing that no accommodation could be made with Ukip prior to the election".

However, hours after the comments were published on the Telegraph’s website, Mr Harris-Quinney was disowned by some of his own patrons and Conservative peers, who are some of the party’s biggest beasts.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick, Lord Heseltine, Lord Howe of Aberavon, Lord Howard of Lympne and Nirj Deva MEP said in a statement issued by the Conservative Party: “As Patrons of the Bow Group we believe that this country's best interests are served by voting Conservative in all situations. Ben Harris-Quinney does not speak for us or represent our views.”

The Bow Group has a number of senior Tories on its board and was founded in 1951 by a group of Conservative graduates. Both Margaret Thatcher, at the time the new party leader, and Edward Heath, the former Prime Minister, spoke its 25th anniversary dinner in 1976.

In an emailed message to 10,000 supporters, Mr Harris-Quinney told Conservatives to vote Ukip in Rochester and Strood – which is being fought by former Tory MP Mark Reckless – as well as Heywood and Middleton, Great Grimsby, Boston and Skegness and Barrow in Furness.

Mr Harris-Quinney, who runs an organisation called Conservative Grassroots Ltd and has been at times a critic of the Tories, said: “Our preference at this election is a Conservative majority, but few in the Conservative Party will acknowledge the reality that this is now very unlikely to happen, and without that acknowledgement we are sleep-walking into a Labour government.

“We recognise the need to keep Ed Miliband out of Number 10, and the best way to do this is for Conservative voters to lend their votes to Ukip, who are best placed to beat Labour in many areas.”

Mr Harris-Quinney said “leading conservative voices like Nigel Farage in South Thanet, and incumbents Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless” were needed in Parliament.

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He said they would “balance the left-wing rhetoric of minor parties like the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats in the House of Commons”.

He said: “It is a strategic failing that no accommodation could be made with Ukip prior to the election, but in acknowledging there won’t be a Conservative majority we have to now be realistic that the best chances of forming a conservative government lie in alliances between parties of similar values like the Conservatives, Ukip and the DUP.”

Mr Farage, the Ukip leader, welcomed the intervention. He said: “Today’s news goes to the heart of what is going on in British politics, and reveals the truth that to keep Mr Miliband out of Number 10, people must vote UKIP.

“In fact it was the Conservative voters in Heywood and Middleton’s by-election last year that kept Mr Miliband in as Labour leader, when they should have backed UKIP.

“What this endorsement recognises is that UKIP MPs are critical to ensuring issues like an EU referendum, defence spending, and stopping the SNP bully are high up the agenda in the next parliament, and I welcome the Bow Group’s recognition of these facts.”

The thinktank’s patrons include Lord Lamont of Lerwick and Lord Howe of Aberavon, two former Conservative Chancellors, as well as former leader Lord Howard of Lympne and Lord Heseltine of Thenford, a former deputy Prime Minister. None is understood to have been contacted about the Ukip letter.

A number of MPs including David Davis, Dominic Grieve, Dominic Raab, Sir Gerald Howarth, Adam Afriyie and Philip Lee also agreed to join the Bow Group’s new Parliamentary Board.

Mr Harris-Quinney said: “It is likely that whatever happens at the general election, the coming years will be immensely tumultuous for the conservative movement in Britain.

“Fundamental questions as to whether the right can unite across two parties, how to position Britain in relation to Europe and how conservatives can once again achieve majority government are yet to be answered, and will take some years to answer.

“With our new Parliamentary Board in place we hope that the Bow Group will be instructive in answering these questions, and that the majority support that exists for conservative values across the country will be reflected in Parliament after May 8th.”
Source==The Telegraph

« Last Edit: May 04, 2015, 11:45:03 PM by the watcher »

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