Election 2015

Election 2015: Bow Group think tank split over UKIP backing

Nigel Farage

The chairman of a conservative think tank has called on Tory supporters to vote UKIP in seats where Nigel Farage's party is best-placed to defeat Labour.

Bow Group chairman Benjamin Harris-Quinney warned of "sleepwalking into a Labour government" without the tactic.

But his comments were disowned by all of the Bow Group's patrons, including Conservative grandees Lords Howe, Heseltine, Howard and Lamont.

They said people should vote Conservative "in all situations".

Polls suggest a hung Parliament is likely after 7 May, and Mr Harris-Quinney, whose comments were first reported in the Daily Telegraph, said he would prefer a Conservative majority.

But he said "few in the Conservative Party will acknowledge the reality that this is now very unlikely to happen, and without that acknowledgement we are sleep-walking into a Labour government".

He added: "We recognise the need to keep Ed Miliband out of Number 10, and the best way to do this is for Conservative voters to lend their votes to UKIP, who are best placed to beat Labour in many areas."

Image caption Mr Harris-Quinney rejected the notion his comments were not representative of the Bow Group

The Bow Group describes itself as "the United Kingdom's oldest conservative think tank" and "firmly housed in the Conservative family".

UKIP leader Nigel Farage welcomed Mr Harris-Quinney's endorsement.

But all of the Bow Group's patrons - which include former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine, ex-Conservative leader Lord Howard and ex-chancellor Lord Lamont - distanced themselves from Mr Harris-Quinney's comments.

In a joint statement they said: "As patrons of the Bow Group we believe that this country's best interests are served by voting Conservative in all situations.

"Ben Harris-Quinney does not speak for us or represent our views."

'No account'

Mr Harris-Quinney was challenged over his credentials during BBC Two's Daily Politics programme, and he rejected the notion that he was only speaking for himself when he called for Tory voters to vote tactically for UKIP.

The think tank chairman, who said he was not a member of the Conservative Party, insisted that the paper was the product of a work of a number of people in the Bow Group, something which he said was customary.

But appearing on the same programme, Lord Heseltine asked, "who is this guy?", adding that he was "of no account".

Image caption Lord Heseltine said Mr Harris-Quinney's view were "incompatible" with Conservative policy

"The Bow Group must have its own examination of how this guy, who is not a member of the Conservative Party, who is actively campaigning in a way that is incompatible with Conservative policy, has been able to produce this document," he said.

Meanwhile, the Independent newspaper has backed the continuation of the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition in its editorial.

The paper said a minority Labour administration reliant on the support of the SNP would be "a disaster for the country" and added: "For all its faults, another Lib-Con coalition would both prolong recovery and give our kingdom a better chance of continued existence."

The London-based Evening Standard newspaper also declared its hand, coming out in support of the Conservatives who would be "best" for the capital.

Related Topics

More on this story