On the road with Grant Shapps: The Tory touring Britain in the fight against Ukip

CHAIRMAN of the Conservative party Grant Shapps has the unenviable task of touring the country getting the party’s election message out, and it’s obvious when he steps off the train in Kingston that he’s done this a million times before.

A quick picture outside the station leads us to a short walking tour of local small businesses.“You build up a patchwork pattern of what’s going on around the country,” he says.

On polling he is tight lipped, but it’s clear Shapps is up for the fight Ukip has brought to his door over Europe. “Where the hell were Ukip when David Cameron negotiated a cut in the UK’s contribution to Europe?” he asks angrily. “They voted against the cut. They refuse to deliver even when they can.” He is frustrated by Nigel Farage’s oversimplification of the EU debate, warning the question is too complex for the answer to be immediate exit.

Shapps is confident that the government will stick it out in coalition for at least the next few months, though in the same breath he insists there is “no love lost” between the two parties.

The UK independence party has seen its popularity rise in the European elections steadily over a number of years. In 1999 the party came fourth overall in the UK; in 2004 it climbed to third and last time around, in 2009, the party improved its share of the vote to come out in second place. Joe Twyman, YouGov’s head of political and social research, doesn’t think it would be a big surprise if Ukip come out on top this time around. “People feel detached from the EU elections so they are more likely to use it as a protest vote, but turnout is the big unknown here and it will have a huge impact on the results,” he said, adding that the last week in the run up to the election can make all the difference. Leader Nigel Farage may wish this wasn’t the case, as his party appears to have run into trouble on an almost daily basis at the minute. Over the weekend Farage was forced to defend himself after being called racist for his comments about Romanian people living in the UK.