POLITICS

Norman V Nigel: Tebbit Says He Is The Man To Beat Farage

05/08/2013 10:39 BST | Updated 05/08/2013 11:12 BST
PA/Getty

Lord Tebbit has offered David Cameron a secret weapon to fight Ukip with. Himself.

The former cabinet minister, who served as Tory party chairman during Margaret Thatcher's time in office, has said he would be "very happy to help in the fight against Ukip" - in exchange for influence over policy.

He told The Times: "All that is necessary is for me to have a say on policy on Europe and a number of other things — policies that would be popular across the board. Ukip would disappear overnight."

Lord Tebbit made the comments after it was reported Tory election strategist Lynton Crosby suggested a Conservative grandee was needed to take on Nigel Farage.

Crosby is also said to have held a meeting with a lobbying firm to discuss a "below-the-radar" campaign targeting Ukip candidates' private lives - a tactic rejected by Lord Tebbit.

"Trawling around for discreditable activities on the part of some of your opponents is an exercise in mudslinging. I would hesitate to advise Mr Cameron and his friends to engage in it," he said. "If Mr Crosby wants mudslingers, then he can probably hire some from somewhere. But I am not one of them."

Conservative strategists are worried that Farage's Ukip could win the 2014 European elections - a victory that would keep momentum behind the party in the run-up to the 2015 general election.

Ukip is unlikely to win a parliamentary seat at the election, but a split in the eurosceptic vote could be enough to deny Cameron an overall majority.

Responding to the claims the Tories planned to target the private lives of Ukip candidates, Farage said: "What is most revealing about Mr Crosby’s line of attack is that he wants to bring in outside consultants to keep a watch on the hundreds of Ukip councillors, rather than trusting the Conservatives’ own elected councillors.

"Of course if they listened to their own activists they would find, just as the Labour Party would, that their own activists have enormous sympathy for what Ukip are trying to do – to wrest power from the political elite and put it back where it belongs, in the hands of the men and women of this country."

A spokesman for Crosby has described the allegations that he planned to set up a new unit to target Ukip as "categorically untrue".