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Tory fears over UKIP splitting Worcestershire County Council vote
THE Tory leader of Worcestershire County Council has revealed his concern over UKIP potentially “splitting the vote” in May’s elections.
Councillor Adrian Hardman has reached out to disgruntled supporters in the county by saying there is “not a single” politician in his Conservative group which is not eurosceptic.
It comes after UKIP revealed it was fielding at least 40 candidates in Worcestershire’s local elections, the biggest challenge the ruling Tory leadership has ever faced.
The Conservatives have 41 of the 57 seats on the authority, but UKIP support has surged to 17 per cent in the latest national opinion polls, only 10 per cent behind.
It also follows a UK-wide poll of 19,000 adults by Tory peer Lord Ashcroft suggesting the party could lose 93 seats to Labour at the next General Election.
The poll reveals surges from the likes of UKIP could hand Labour a majority of 84.
Coun Hardman said: “I would say to people, this is a local election and we would hope our councillors have good enough track records to stay in.
“I’d be concerned about UKIP splitting the vote of the right, but I can also say there is not a single councillor in our group who is not eurosceptic.
“What UKIP could also do though is split the protest vote, so less people vote for Labour or the Lib Dems - it could even help us in that respect.
“Any party is allowed to field candidates and we are ready for the challenge, so bring it on.
“We will be out there defending our record and what people have also got to remember is that UKIP is the party of protest, whereas we are in control of the council.”
In the Eastleigh by-election UKIP came second behind the Lib Dems, a result which dumped the Tories into third spot and raised the prospect of major battle in May’s town hall contests.
In Worcestershire UKIP branches are reporting interest at record levels, with people wanting to become party members or stand for council.
Carl Humphries, who runs the Worcester office, said: “Popularity of the party is so high at the moment, interest has gone through the roof.
“We’ve had more applicants than vacancies in some parts of the county, that’s how it’s been going.”
Every county council seat will be up for grabs on Thursday, May 2.