Page last updated at 17:26 GMT, Friday, 19 March 2010

UKIP candidates 'will not fight eurosceptic rivals'

Lord Pearson of Rannoch
Lord Pearson said the move would be hard for some in the party

The UK Independence Party will not stand against hardline Eurosceptic rivals in other parties at the general election, its leader has said.

Lord Pearson said he would ask "seven or eight" UKIP candidates to stand aside in seats where their rivals also wanted UK withdrawal from the EU.

Tory candidates are most likely to benefit but UKIP said its move would apply to Eurosceptic Labour hopefuls.

The plan would show the public that UKIP was "different", he argued.

Lord Pearson, a former Tory peer who recently succeeded Nigel Farage as leader, told party members that UKIP must "break the mould" by raising controversial issues and taking different electoral stances.

UKIP's goal of pulling out of the EU is shared by a handful of Conservative MPs who are part of the "Better Off Out" group.

The Conservatives believe it is in the country's interests to remain within the EU although they have called for certain powers to be repatriated from Brussels to the UK.

'National interest'

Former Tory voters switching allegiance to UKIP is thought to have cost the Conservatives several seats in 2005 and polling experts believe UKIP's influence could sway the outcome of a number of seats this time around.

Lord Pearson said its main objective was still to secure a referendum on EU membership but that helping like-minded MPs from other parties get re-elected to Parliament would show UKIP was acting in the "national interest" not narrow party interest.

We must do what we can to get people in the House of Commons who will really fight for our freedom
Lord Pearson of Rannoch

He acknowledged this was not an "easy concept" for the party to take on board but that he hoped to persuade the UKIP candidates in the constituencies concerned to transfer to other seats.

"We must do what we can to get people in the House of Commons who will really fight for our freedom," he said.

"I am not talking about candidates who just 'say we would be better out of Europe'. I am talking about candidates, there are very few - maybe seven or eight - who I am convinced will force questions and debates in and out of the Commons and who, if necessary, will defy their whips."

He added: "I believe that this policy will help to convince the electorate everywhere that we really are different and we are not just another political party pursuing our own selfish interest."

Internal dispute

Lord Pearson told party members that UKIP was no longer a "single issue" party but stressed the best solution to revive the economy and curb immigration was to withdraw from the EU.

He said the bulk of terrorist threats to the UK came from "within Islam" and the "advance" of Islamic law in parts of the UK had to be addressed.

UKIP has sought to contrast its "unity" in the run-up to the 2010 election with the disarray in the party five years ago caused by the defection of its former MEP Robert Kilroy-Silk.

However, MEP Nikki Sinclaire is threatening to take UKIP to the High Court after the party withdrew the whip from her.

Ms Sinclaire has written to the party, alleging the correct disciplinary procedures were not followed when she was suspended in January after protesting against the party's alliance in the European Parliament.

UKIP officials have said they believe her claims are "baseless" and would "refute each point robustly".

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