The Conservative byelection candidate in Rochester and Strood has suggested some voters are worried that having a Ukip MP as their local representative could lead to a drop in house prices.
Kelly Tolhurst, the 36-year-old businesswoman fighting for the Tories, said she had won the support of many people who were not keen on the idea of a Ukip MP representing the Medway towns.
She mentioned the concern as something that voters had raised but other Conservatives are making the argument about falling house prices more explicitly as they enter the final four days of their campaign against Mark Reckless, the Ukip candidate and former Tory MP.
One Conservative MP campaigning on the high street with colleagues said: “The danger is if you vote Ukip the value of your house may go down.”
Asked if voters had actually raised this concern with her, Tolhurst said: “I have actually heard a few people say that to me but I’m not getting into that.
“A lot of people have said we are going to vote for you because we do not want a Ukip MP. The people of Rochester and Strood are good people; they are balanced people and we care about our area,” she said.
Another argument being made by the Conservatives is that Tolhurst has always lived in the area and owned a business in the town. On their leaflets, they are contrasting this with the fact that Reckless was born elsewhere and went to Oxford University, before becoming a consultant and political researcher at Westminster.
Speaking on the campaign trail outside Strood, William Hague, the leader of the Commons, who himself went to Oxford University, denied that the Tories were being hypocritical.
“I don’t think there’s any class war,” he said. “We are making clear the advantages of having a committed local candidate. That’s what people get with Kelly – born and raised in this area with a good record on the council. It’s a contrast with the Ukip candidate and the leaflet is pointing that out.”
But Reckless said he was shocked that the Conservatives would make that argument against him and questioned whether David Cameron, also an Oxford University graduate, had signed off on it.
According to the polls and bookmakers, Reckless is the clear favourite to win, despite the Conservatives throwing huge resources at the contest.
Paul Nuttall, the Ukip deputy leader, said it was “desperate” and the “politics of fear” for the Tories to bring house prices into the argument.
Reckless added: “I hope that all the attention in Rochester we’ve had will support house prices.”
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