Conservative Bow Group split over chairman's Ukip endorsement

Guy Bentley
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Heseltine says hold the line and vote Tory (Source: Getty)

The Tory party's oldest think tank is at loggerheads this evening after the group's chairman said fellow Conservatives should vote Ukip in seats where the Tories can't win but Ukip may stand a chance.

The Bow Group, which was founded in 1951, counts many senior Conservatives among its patrons and has 10,000 members. Speaking to the Telegraph, chairman of the Bow Group Ben Harris-Quinney said:

Our preference at this election is a Conservative majority, but 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.

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.

Needless to say, Ukip were delighted by the endorsement. Ukip is looking to supplant the Conservatives as Labour's natural opposition in many seats across the north of England. Quinney said a vote for Ukip to beat Labour in certain seats would restore a right of centre balance to parliament and could counter an expected influx of left-wing SNP MPs.

The Conservative old guard, however, are having no truck with the idea of supporting Ukip in some seats. Lords Heseltine, Howe, Lamont and MEP Niri Deva quickly issued a statement via the Conservative Party, saying:

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.

This isn't the first time the Bow Group has dealt an embarrassing blow to David Cameron. Last year, the think tank boycotted the Conservative Party conference accusing the gathering of being little more than a “a corporate venue for press and lobbyists” rather than “a genuine forum for conservatism and Conservative party members”.

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