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Last Updated: Friday, 7 April 2006, 15:47 GMT 16:47 UK
UKIP steps up war with the Tories
Roger Knapman
Mr Knapman said his party had cost the Tories 27 seats in 2005
The UK Independence Party has stepped up its war with the Conservatives, pledging to stand in every Tory marginal at the next election.

It said Tory leader David Cameron calling UKIP "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists" had sparked the move.

UKIP, which strongly denies being racist, said it had cost the Tories 27 seats at the last election.

And although it has a policy of contesting every seat it would be particularly targeting Tory marginals.

Despite repeated UKIP requests for an apology and threats of legal action, the Conservatives have refused to back down, with party chairman Francis Maude this morning insisting some UKIP members "have some pretty unsavoury connections with the far-right."

The real fruitcakes are the people who elected a socialist to lead the Conservative Party
Roger Knapman

"It is a bit of a party that just wants to turn the clock back, that doesn't like the fact that Britain is a multi-racial country, a multi-faith country, would like to return to a world where Britain is all-white and Europe didn't exist - well, that's not the real world," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Armoured car

Mr Cameron says he does not regret his remarks, and accused UKIP of removing an Adolf Hitler quote from its website as a result of Tory pressure.

But Mr Knapman said the quote - "The broad mass of a nation ... will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one" - was still on the party's site as one of a rotating selection of messages to greet visitors, and would remain there.

He said the Hitler quote remained "if only to prove Mr Cameron has learned something from him".

Mr Knapman, a former Tory whip, later addressed a news conference in Westminster saying: "I am just sorry that a once great party could descend into the gutter that they find themselves in."

Asked if he now agreed with the comments of former party member Robert Kilroy-Silk that UKIP should try to "kill" the Tories, Mr Knapman said: "We don't have to kill the Tory party Mr Cameron is doing a good job of killing it himself."

He added that he very much agreed with a letter he had read that said: "The real fruitcakes are the people who elected a socialist to lead the Conservative Party".

Fellow former Conservative MP Richard Body, who also attended the news conference, said he believed that a class action for defamation would not succeed because all the evidence suggested that UKIP had increased its support since Mr Cameron's remarks and the party had therefore not suffered any damage.

'Slurs'

UKIP said it would also be parking a Saracen armoured car outside the Conservative spring conference in Manchester on Saturday, in a publicity stunt designed to show "that UKIP's tanks are firmly parked on David Cameron's lawn".

Commenting on its decision to contest Tory marginals, Mr Knapman said: "There has been considerable debate within UKIP about whether the party should contest seats held by Eurosceptics.

"The disgraceful comments made by Mssrs Cameron and [Tory chairman Francis] Maude have settled that argument by decrying a party which seeks to re-establish the supremacy of the British Parliament at Westminster as racist.

"All parties contain members whose views could be considered racist.

"Labour accepted an ex-BNP councillor to regain control of the council in Burnley, while several of the former National Front members the Conservatives have identified as UKIP members were defections from the Conservative Party.

"To reduce political argument to the level of libellous name calling is absurd and beneath contempt. UKIP will not stand for such slurs under any circumstances.

The childish tactics of the Conservative leadership demonstrate only too well why they remain a party of opposition and not one of government."




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