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Reeta Chakrabarti reports for BBC News
"They are keeping their cards close to their chest"
 real 28k

Teresa Gorman talks to the BBC's Paul Dunt
"We not not need the Europeans to run our country for us"
 real 28k

Monday, 3 January, 2000, 15:10 GMT
Gorman denies defection report

european parliament The UKIP has three seats in the European Parliament

A high-profile Conservative MP is on the verge of defecting to the UK Independence Party, according to the latter's chairman.

But Teresa Gorman has denied reports that she is the target.

The MP for Billericay in Essex admitted she met UKIP chairman Nigel Farage once for lunch in Europe.

Teresa Goman: "Silly season story"
But she told the BBC she had no intention of leaving the Tories, describing the reports predicting her defection as "gossip and tittle-tattle" which was "a silly season story".

Mrs Gorman said: "I have no plans to apply for membership of the UKIP.

"The Conservative Party under William Hague's leadership has come a very long way towards the position that I have always adopted, which is that we do not need the Europeans to run our country for us.

"I'm pleased by the way things are going, I think rank and file Conservatives are on our side on the issue and what would be the point?"

Mr Farage, whose party wants the UK to leave the European Union, has refused to name the potential defector.

Mrs Gorman was recently barred by the Conservatives from standing as a candidate for London mayor and does not plan to fight the next election.

In an interview with the BBC, Mr Farage, an MEP, declined to say which Conservatives he had spoken to.

'Press speculation'

He said: "What we have said is that there are a couple of Tory MPs, several ex-MPs and some members of the House of Lords who are in talks with us.

"But we haven't named anybody, that's being left to press speculation."

There was a large element in the Conservative Party "who are very unhappy with Hague's policy of being in Europe and not run by Europe", continued Mr Farage.

He said: "The simple choice is we're either in the European Union, we make the best that we can of it, or we come out."

Nigel Farage: Held talks
The UKIP won three seats at the European Parliament elections in June, which was fought on a system of proportional representation.

It has promised to fight more than 400 seats at the next general election. But electoral analysts believe it stands little chance of winning any.

A defection would add to the embarrassment caused to the Tories by former frontbencher Shaun Woodward leaving the party to join Labour.

It would echo the defection of Tory MP Sir George Gardiner to the Referendum Party, in protest at John Major's European policies, shortly before the 1997 General Election.

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See also:
01 Oct 99 |  UK Politics
Ex-Tory: 'Follow me to escape Europe'
19 Jul 99 |  UK Politics
What next for the UKIP?
25 May 99 |  Parties and Issues
UK Independence Party
01 Oct 99 |  UK Politics
Eurosceptics pledge 400 poll candidates
07 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Gorman banned from Tory mayor race
28 Nov 99 |  UK
Teresa Gorman to quit

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