POLITICS

Conservatives Must Refuse To Become Like Ukip, Says Tory Peer Lord Ashcroft, After Eastleigh Poll

01/03/2013 15:33 GMT | Updated 02/03/2013 14:25 GMT

A Conservative peer has cautioned his party against becoming "more like Ukip" after the party's disastrous result in the Eastleigh by election.

Lord Ashcroft, former Conservative treasurer, cautioned his party against "learning the wrong lessons" and becoming the "party of easy answers."

The peer found some cause for optimism in an otherwise dour day in Number 10. A poll found that ten per cent of those who voted Ukip in the by-election, said they would probably vote Conservative in 2015.

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Lord Ashcroft's poll found many Ukip supporters planned a switch to the Tories in 2015

Lord Ashcroft, a major donor to the party, said: "Last night’s result was a dramatic event but it does not change the fundamental strategic challenge facing the Conservative Party. We must look at the evidence and resist learning the wrong lessons.

"Our task is not to become more like UKIP, the party of easy answers, but to be the party of government that people want to vote for. Let’s hope there’s still time."

The poll, conducted by Lord Ashcroft in Eastleigh, found one third of UKIP by-election voters said they did not yet know how they would vote at the general election and that tactical voting by Labour supporters helped elect Liberal Democrat Mike Thornton.

The survey of 760 voters, conducted throughout the day among people who had voted by post or in person, found that only half of those who voted Lib Dem at the last election did so again yesterday, while a quarter of 2010 Labour voters switched to the Lib Dems.

The proportion of voters switching to UKIP was nearly as high among Liberal Democrats as among Conservatives.

Around 43% of UKIP by-election voters said they would probably vote for the party again at the 2015 general election. 10% said they would vote Conservative, and 34% said they didn’t know.

"The day after a by-election it rarely helps to panic. Neither does it help to speculate about who voted for whom, or why," the peer said.

"Our question on why people voted as they did suggests a high proportion of the UKIP voters wished a plague upon all parties’ houses."

According to the poll, 83% of Ukip voters said they were sending a message that they were “unhappy with the party I usually support nationally”, and three quarters wanted to show they were “unhappy with all the main parties at the moment”.

Bookmakers William Hill have cut their odds for UKIP to win one or more seats at the next General Election from 5/2 to 7/4 after their prominent showing in the Eastleigh by election.

"UKIP have already shown they can win European election seats and they are getting ever closer to winning a seat in the House of Commons," said William Hill’s spokesman Graham Sharpe.