Nigel Farage has predicted that David Cameron will lead the biggest party after the election because he is connecting with middle-class Tories and looks like a leader, whereas Ed Miliband is not connecting with working class voters in the north.
The Ukip leader cast Cameron in a more favourable light than he has done previously, suggesting he is flirting with the possibility of working with the prime minister in a Tory-led alliance in return for an EU referendum.
In contrast, he mocked Miliband as someone who you could not imagine going into a working men’s club in the north and ordering a drink.
Farage has spent the past few years being equally dismissive of all the main three mainstream political parties as part of a Westminster metropolitan elite, reserving particular scorn for Cameron as the man who once branded Ukip a bunch of fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists.
The Ukip leader may believe a political chance has opened up for him to hold Cameron’s feet to the fire on the issue of an EU referendum if the Tories fall short of a majority and Ukip wins a small number of seats.
In an interview ahead of the Master Investor conference with the Isle of Man-based businessman Jim Mellon, Farage said: “I think right now the Conservatives will be the biggest party … The reason I think the Conservatives will be the biggest party is because whatever he does politically, Cameron actually looks like a Conservative leader.
“For a lot of Conservative voters, they find that reassuring. Ed’s problem? Can you imagine Ed going into a working man’s club in Newcastle for a drink? I can’t. It just doesn’t work. You’ve got a Labour leader who’s not connecting with that traditional vote. You’ve got a Conservative leader who is connecting with middle-class Tories but has completely lost the support of more blue-collar Tories.”
Stressing his party’s ideological overlap with the Tory party, Farage said there were “100 backbench Conservative MPs who are more Ukip than I am” but tribal considerations were stopping them defecting.
Polling published on Thursday by the Conserative peer Lord Ashcroft has Ukip slightly behind in many of the key seats it hopes to take from the Conservatives in May – Boston, Thanet South and Castle Point - suggesting Farage will struggle to gain enough MPs to form any alliance.
The Ukip leader, however, has said his party constantly outperforms expectations and that he believes it will get more than five seats at the election.
Farage has ruled out a coalition with the Conservatives, but has held out the possibility of a confidence and supply agreement in exchange for an early EU referendum.
In the same interview with Mellon, Farage set out a further demand to excludecitizens from other EU nations from voting in a referendum.
He made clear, however, that any deal “would have to be written in blood for me to believe a word of it”, given that Cameron was a “member of the establishment”.
He said it was “possible that Ed Miliband and the SNP could have a majority in the next parliament, but it is very unlikely”.
Asked whether he would want the 4 million EU citizens in the UK to leave if Britain voted to go, Farage said he believed that would be morally wrong and Ukip “simply wouldn’t do that”.
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