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Last Updated: Friday, 24 February 2006, 10:56 GMT
West: The Politics tank ...
Dave Harvey
Dave Harvey
The Politics Show West

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UkIP tanks on Tory lawn?

'We make no apologies. We are parking our tanks on David Cameron's abandoned Lawn'.

With this colourful phrase, UKIP opened a new front line in British politics this week - on the right.

There have been grumbles about David Cameron's clearout of old Tory policies. Norman Tebbit is rumoured to be unimpressed.

But now the South West's most controversial Euro MP has offered a home to grumpy Tories.

"Five million voters have abandoned the Tories" said Roger Knapman, MEP for the SW and leader of UKIP on Tuesday.

"But it could be said that the Tories have abandoned them."

Dave Harvey and Tank
Dave Harvey marshals his Sherman Tank

So have the Tories given up on 5m right of centre voters? Can UKIP turn them into the party's first ever MPs? To find out, I hired a tank.

It is a real Sherman - "Sloppy but safe" scrawled by Yanks on her side, she saw service in Normandy.

Now she is tended by Jim Clarke in a barn near Thornbury. It is a mighty beast.

Jim's landlord, a farmer, wasn't letting us anywhere near his lawn - we had to make do with a bit of common land.

It now resembles a muddy corner of Paschaendale.

Politicians love tanks. But Roger and his colleagues were speaking metaphorically. What they mean is this.

David Cameron has gone off in search of new voters who care about global warming, world poverty and social justice - leaving traditional Tories, his home front, exposed.

Roger's tanks are new policies tailor made for the Tory right.

  • Selection in schools
  • Limits on immigration
  • A flat rate of tax for all
  • And a Parliament for England to match those in Edinburgh and Cardiff

So how does all this go down with ex Tory voters? I met John Parfitt in his chocolate box home town, Painswick, Gloucestershire.

One time Tory candidate, one time referendum candidate, staunch Euro-sceptic, surely a man to feel "abandoned" by Cameron?

"I don't feel at all abandoned" he says. "It's far too early to tell, Mr Cameron presents himself well, but he hasn't detailed any policies yet, nor should he."

Most damningly for UKIP, John sees no army of grumpy ex-Tories flocking right to the UKIP standard. "UKIP's problem is they have no depth.

"They have good leaders, but they don't have the finance or the organisation to mount a national campaign".

In short, a UKIP vote is a wasted vote in a General election. And this from a man whose political life has been a war on Brussels.

There is another barrel to this shotgun, if I can continue the military lingo.

UKIP's last real success was in the Euro elections of 2004. 12 MEPs, two here in the South West where they beat Labour and the Lib Dems.

This was explained at the time by the party's broad appeal. Euro-sceptics from all parties could feel at home.

But take the party right, and labour or lib dem voters start feeling uneasy.

"These policies were thrown out by the voters, we don't want them back". I'm talking to Cllr Chris Lees, a UKIP councillor who defected from the Lib Dems.

He says UKIP's many supporters from across the political spectrum read the announcement with horror.

"We want to take this party forward, you don't do that with a clapped out old bus but a new one, not one that's been in a knackers yard."

Roger Knapman's bold tank advance looks promising. The Tories are moving left, there are grumbles in the ranks.

But a mutiny? Does he risk losing existing support in his own chase after new votes?

We ask him on Politics Show West, this Sunday at 11.55am on BBC One.

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Politics from around the UK...

UKIP seeks to target Tory voters
21 Feb 06 |  UK Politics
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