Ukip leader Nigel Farage has arrived. His invitation to dinner with Rupert Murdoch on Tuesday was almost as much of a sign of his growing political influence as the eurosceptic party’s strong showing in the Eastleigh by-election last week.
Farage has confirmed he did indeed dine with the media mogul at Murdoch’s London flat but has refused to give any clues about what was said. However, the Daily Telegraph writes he suggested he would form an electoral pact with the Conservatives if Cameron stepped down.
The Ukip leader has made no secret of his dislike of the prime minister. The names Cameron called them years ago – “fruitcakes” and “closet racists” – seem to be etched onto his memory.
Farage is bound to want to continue to stir up trouble for the Tories, already shaken by Eastleigh, and there is almost no better way than to float yet again the offer of friendship if they lose their leader.
But the Conservatives would be wise to remember polling shows Cameron is still a valuable asset – persistently scoring higher approval ratings than Ed Miliband.
The Ukip head honcho is also reported to have said he hopes to win half of the seats in next year’s European election.
We know Murdoch has never been a fan of the European Union but the pair may share other views, the paper reported this morning:
Mr Murdoch is said to be supportive of Mr Farage’s views towards Europe and his backing for new grammar schools, but more sceptical about Ukip’s stance on immigration.
Murdoch tweeted last night that Farage was “reflecting opinion” and that Europe had been “wrecked by discontent and resentment of EU”. But perhaps in a sign that he wasn’t completely won over to the Ukip cause, he bracketed Farage with some Tories he approves of (and one Italian…):
For more on the rise and rise of Ukip, see tomorrow’s Financial Times where political editor George Parker reports on the cult of Farage for the magazine.