Ken Clarke Warns Tories Will Suffer By Obsessing Over Europe And Immigration

The Tories will suffer at next year's General Election if they obsess over the issues of European Union reform and immigration, a recently departed minister has said.

Ken Clarke, who first became a minister more than 40 years and stood down as minister without portfolio at the reshuffle earlier this month, said the Tories should not obsess over Europe and immigration in a bid to lure voters away from Ukip, who came first in May's European elections.

He said the party had to ensure it struck a "balance" between different issues and not give way to "hysterical, high-pressure campaigning" that prevails.

He used the example of the 2013 Eastleigh by-election, where the Lib Dems successfully defended their seat and the Tory candidate came third after Ukip, saying it showed how the party could "lose what should be safe Conservative seats".

Ken Clarke said the EU and immigration 'are not winning issues' if the party 'gets the balance wrong'

“21st century politics now has an atmosphere of hysterical high-pressure campaigning, seven days a week, which dominates the life of the government,” he told The Sunday Telegraph.

“If you get the balance wrong, they (Europe and immigration) are not winning issues. The Eastleigh by-election showed that running a campaign on Europe and immigration is a way of losing what should be safe Conservative seats.”

“Every political leader has always known that simply cheering up your more hardline activists is no way to win an election. The point of an election is to attract to you people who might otherwise vote Labour or Lib Dem.”

Cameron has pledged to hold an in/out referendum on Britain's EU membership in 2017, if the Conservatives win in 2015.

The prime minister also waged a very public, unsuccessful campaign to block "arch federalist" Jean Claude Juncker from becoming EU Commission president.

Labour has pledged to hold a referendum but only if there is a move by Brussels to take on more powers.