Prime Minister David Cameron said he won’t enter into any pacts with the U.K. Independence Party ahead of national elections next year, saying the group led by Nigel Farage is out to “destroy” his Conservatives.
UKIP, which wants to pull Britain out of the European Union, took first place in elections for the European Parliament, winning a national vote for the first time. Some of Cameron’s lawmakers have suggested Tory candidates stand on a joint ticket with UKIP in the 2015 poll. Others have urged the premier to accelerate his planned referendum on EU membership or tackle immigration, a key UKIP campaigning point.
“Farage wants to destroy the Conservative Party, not work in tandem with it,” Cameron told the BBC’s “Today” radio program. “I think there’s a great myth that there’s somehow some great pact or deal to be done. Conservative candidates will stand as Conservatives, fight as Conservatives and I hope win as Conservatives.”
With European election results in for England, Scotland and Wales, UKIP had 24 seats, the main opposition Labour Party 20, Cameron’s Tories 19, the Greens three, the Scottish National Party two, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats one and the Welsh nationalist Plaid Cymru one. UKIP took 27 percent of the vote, Labour 25 percent, the Conservatives 24 percent, the Greens 8 percent and the Liberal Democrats 7 percent.
Clegg today rebuffed calls from some within his party for him to resign. “The government still has a year to run,” he said in a pooled television interview. “If I thought that anything would really be solved by changing leadership, I wouldn’t hesitate.”
Farage told BBC News today that Cameron’s opposition to teaming up with UKIP ruled out joint candidacy in elections next May. Asked if any pacts or deals could be done with other parties, he replied, “I’m not so sure there are; they absolutely despise us. I do not think that under David Cameron’s leadership he will allow any sort of joint ticket at the next election.”
How to deal with UKIP will continue to dog Cameron and other party leaders in the run-up to the 2015 elections and as the Tories defend a parliamentary seat in a special election on June 5. During the campaign for the European and local elections, Cameron dubbed UKIP “appalling” and said the party represents the “politics of anger.”
Cameron today ruled out accelerating his planned referendum on EU membership, promised by the end of 2017, arguing that only the Conservatives are offering the realistic prospect of an in-out vote after renegotiating ties with the EU.
“People are deeply disillusioned with the European Union,” Cameron said. “They do not think the current relationships are working well enough for Britain. They want change, and as far as I am concerned that message is completely received and understood.”
Cameron refused to discuss whether he would seek to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats or UKIP if the next election results in a hung Parliament, in which no party has overall control. Farage, who said today he expects to win seats for the first time in the national Parliament next May, has previously said he would be prepared to enter power-sharing negotiations.
The European Parliament result capped three days of misery for Cameron, Clegg and Labour leader Ed Miliband, all of them victims of UKIP’s rise. On May 22, UKIP gained 161 seats in the local elections, second only to Labour, which failed to gain the level of support it would need for victory in next year’s general election.
It’s the first time the main party in opposition hasn’t won the European election since 1984. It’s also the first time in the Tory party’s history that it’s come third in a national vote. Still, John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, told the BBC that the narrowness of Labour’s lead over the Conservatives would be a “quite considerable disappointment” to Miliband.
If Miliband keeps refusing to guarantee the British people a referendum on EU membership, he would become the “biggest recruiting sergeant” for UKIP, Farage said. Labour would only hold a referendum on EU membership if significant powers are ceded from national Parliaments.
“We did well from a party that in 2010 got one of its worst share of the votes ever in an election,” Miliband told Sky News today, pointing to his party’s gains. “There is further to go, but I believe we are in a position where we can win the general election.”
UKIP has won support by attacking the EU, immigration, and mainstream politics. Though the party came third in London behind Labour and the Tories in the European vote, it topped the polls in most other regions.
Farage was today, as on most days of the campaign, photographed with a pint of beer. Cameron dismissed this image of “a normal bloke in the pub”, describing him instead as “a consummate politician.”