The Conservative party chairman, Grant Shapps, has ruled out any kind of deal with Ukip after the election, putting him at odds with David Cameron who has repeatedly refused to do so.
Shapps made the comments at the launch of a document pouring scorn on Labour’s first 30 days of campaigning. He was mostly grilled about the Tories’ policies and the potential for a future relationship with Nigel Farage’s party.
Asked about the Conservatives’ failure to take the lead in the polls, which many in the party had privately been predicting would happen in the new year, Shapps said voters would only start to engage a bit closer to the election.
“Actually, we have seen the opinion polls close, but I’m the first to concede this is going to be an incredibly close election,” he said.
Pressed then on the possibility of a tie-up with Ukip, Shapps said: “I can rule out – we are not going to do pacts and deals with Ukip.”
Ukip responded by saying it was not interested in promising a coalition pact with anyone, but could be interested in a confidence and supply arrangement.
A spokesman said: “For us, politics is about getting something done, not about stitching up deals to get jobs for the boys... For that reason we will drive for a confidence and supply agreement to ensure the big issues that matter to the public are on the table and that voters have a powerful voice.
“It looks increasingly likely that we will have a hung parliament after May, so now is the time for voters to back the party that really represents them and will make sure that their concerns are addressed and not brushed under the carpet for another five years by a cosy cartel of establishment parties.”
Since the beginning of the year, Cameron has repeatedly refused to comment on whether he would consider a tie-up with Ukip after May, saying only that he is fighting to win the election.
Asked twice on BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show this month whether he would ever align with Ukip, Cameron dodged the question, saying he did not want pacts or deals with anyone as he was aiming for a Tory-majority government. “I want a modern, compassionate Conservative party elected to run the government of this country,” he said.
Cameron suggested that a Tory-led government could try to hold an early referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union – a move that would satisfy the Eurosceptic right of the Conservatives and potentially smooth the path for a deal with Ukip.
During Friday’s event, Shapps also defended the defection of the Ukip MEP Amjad Bashir to the Conservatives, saying he was happy to welcome anyone as long as they were not from an extremist party. Ukip has claimed the politician only jumped ship after running into trouble. Shapps said: “Suddenly they rush out of the door all of the stuff that’s already been there for years. It’s pretty desperate stuff to be perfectly honest.”
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