Tory Party grandee Lord Tebbit has warned David Cameron that he will struggle to win the forthcoming general election unless Ukip somehow "implode" in the run-up to polling on May 7.The Prime Minister kicked off what expected to be four months of frenzied campaigning by the parties with an appeal to voters to "stay on the road" to economic recovery.
Addressing supporters in Halifax, West Yorkshire, he said the election would be "the most important in a generation" and that any result other than a Conservative victory would be "disastrous" for the country. However Lord Tebbit, a former Conservative Party chairman, warned Mr Cameron that he could pay a heavy price for his failure to honour his commitment at the last election to cut net migration into the UK.
"Mr Cameron swore that he would get immigration, net, down to tens of thousands, so that's a real problem," he told BBC Radio 4's The World at One. "It makes it difficult for him to persuade people that he can control it without a radical change in our relationship with Europe, which Ukip would then point out would almost certainly mean leaving the European Union. I think it is going to be very difficult to win an overall majority unless, for some reason or another, Ukip should implode."
Speaking at the launch of the Conservatives first campaign poster of the year - with the slogan Let's Stay on the Road to a Stronger Economy - Mr Cameron said it was "absolutely crucial" that the party triumphed in May.
"It is an absolutely vital election for our country and I think the most important election in a generation," he said. "I say we need to stay on the road to a stronger economy not just because the alternatives are so disastrous and, frankly, they are disastrous.
"I say that we should stay on this road because I'm absolutely clear about what the destination should be, about what more we can do for our country over the coming five years."
For Labour, shadow chancellor Ed Balls MP said the Conservatives' economic plan had failed and the country needed a change of course. "David Cameron and George Osborne are taking Britain in the wrong direction. It's a road lurching to the right - their plan is not working yet they're saying let's carry on with our failed plan," he said.
"In the last few years we've seen living standards squeezed, a crisis in our NHS and tax cuts just for the richest in society while everyone else has to pay more."
A Liberal Democrat spokesman said: "The Conservative economic plan for the future looks more like the highway to hell for the majority of British voters, as the Tories want to roll back the state to the 1930s."