02/12/2014 06:04 GMT | Updated 02/12/2014 11:59 GMT

Tories Should Not 'Rip Off' Ukip Policies, Says Zac Goldsmith

PA Wire/PA Archive
Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith gives evidence to the Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions at Portcullis House, London.

The Tories should avoid "ripping off" Ukip in order to combat the Eurosceptic party's growing appeal, Tory backbencher Zac Goldsmith has warned.

Speaking to Conservative activists in Westminster on Monday night, the Richmond MP, and proud Eurosceptic, warned that Ukip "will flourish where there is no respect for the candidates or the incumbents".

However, he said, the Tories' approach to counter Ukip should not be "all about good policy".

"We could rip off the Ukip manifesto and present it to voters and I don't think it'd change much in terms of people's intentions at all," he explained. "I really strongly believe the answer is in authenticity."

"I've had this conversation so many times with the leadership in our party, You've just got to be honest and straight with voters and then if they don't like what you're saying, they'll have a respect for you and the lack of respect is what is driving people towards Ukip."

He also admitted it was "very hard to make any reasonable predictions" about how well Ukip would do electorally, adding that the Tories did "a lot better than expected" at the recent by-election in Rochester and Strood, which Ukip's Mark Reckless won with a majority of 2,920 votes.

The Richmond MP is the son of Sir James Goldsmith, who founded the anti-EU Referendum Party in the 1990s, and a close friend of Douglas Carswell, the Tory MP who defected to Ukip in August.

Goldsmith's warning comes days after David Cameron promised to block European Union migrants from claiming welfare for the first four years after they arrive in Britain.

See also:

Fire Alarm Interrupts David Cameron's Big Immigration Speech

10 Desperate Ways The Tories Have Tried To Cut UK Migration

Ex-Minister Urges Cameron To 'Move On' From Immigration After Speech: 'I Hope That'll Be The End Of It'

Tory Net Migration Target 'Dead And Buried' As Migrant Numbers Soar

EU President Martin Schulz Backs Miliband In Snub For 'Strange' Cameron

In a move to thwart the rising popularity of Ukip, the Prime Minister last week insisted he ruled "nothing out" if British demands for change fall on deaf ears and warned that welfare reforms will be an "absolute requirement" in the renegotiation that would be held ahead of his planned referendum on EU membership.

In a speech awkwardly interrupted by a fire alarm, the Tory leader hit out at Nigel Farage's party, telling an audience at a JCB factory in the West Midlands: "We should distrust those who sell the snake oil of simple solutions [on immigration]".

However, Cameron's proposal to make EU migrants wait four years until they claim benefits may raise eyebrows as it is only marginally weaker than Ukip's own proposal to have them wait for five years.

"He still accepts the principle of free movement. The benefits issue is just a small aspect of the story, only around 7% of migrants are affected," a Ukip source told the Huffington Post UK.

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