Several lawmakers from British Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives will join the anti-EU UK Independence Party if he renews a coalition with the pro-EU Liberal Democrats, UKIP’s leader Nigel Farage forecasted.
Cameron, whose party has been in coalition with the Liberal Democrats since 2010, has promised a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union by the end of 2017 if he is re-elected next month.
Two Conservative lawmakers defected to UKIP last year and several other Euro-skeptic members of Cameron’s party were rumored to be considering following suit at the time. “There are Tory (Conservative) backbenchers who do not want a coalition again with Mr. Clegg under any circumstances,” Farage said in an interview in the Sunday Times newspaper.
“If Cameron comes back as prime minister in a coalition deal with Clegg and the terms of the referendum are on Clegg lines not Farage lines then you may very well see a more serious fracture in the Conservative Party,” he said.
“They are terms which I find wholly unacceptable and all those Tory backbenchers would too,” he added, predicting “more than a handful” would defect.
With most polls showing the Conservatives neck-and-neck with the opposition Labor Party ahead of the May 7 election, neither is expected to win a majority outright, leaving smaller parties vying to extract concessions in return for their support.
The Financial Times reported this week that Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, who only favors holding an EU referendum if more powers are transferred to Brussels, could demand including under-18s and EU migrants in the vote in return for his backing.
UKIP, who are expected to win as many as six seats at the election, have said they will support a minority Conservative government in return for a referendum by the end of 2015.
Cameron’s net approval rating has edged into positive for the first time in nearly four years ahead of next month’s vote, according to a poll published on Sunday.
The improvement in Cameron’s personal rating did not translate into a widening poll lead for his Conservative Party however, underlining the unpredictability of the May 7 vote, in which no one party is expected to secure an outright majority.
The YouGov/Sunday Times poll, carried out after a major TV debate this week, found 47% of those surveyed thought Cameron was doing well as prime minister, compared to 46% who said he was doing badly — his first net positive rating since May 2011.
Opposition Labor leader Ed Miliband, whose personal popularity lags his party’s, also saw a boost. YouGov said 33% thought he was doing well as party leader, up from 30% last month, but still outweighed by the 59% who thought he was doing badly.
The main TV debate of Britain’s national election campaign last Thursday yielded no clear victor with four opinion polls producing four different winners.
An Opinium/Observer poll on Saturday showed it had also done little to sway voters, with Labor and the Conservatives neck-and-neck on 33% each.
That was echoed by Sunday’s YouGov poll, which put the Conservatives on 34%, down three points from their pre-debate level, while Labor were down two points on 33%.
Scottish nationalist leader Nicola Sturgeon, whose party is expected to capture many Labor seats in Scotland and could hold the balance of power after the election, came across the best of the seven leaders in the debate by far, the YouGov poll found.
Polls have shown the Scottish National Party (SNP), which led a failed bid for Scottish independence last year, could win more than 40 of Scotland’s 59 seats in the British parliament.