Tories should give Ukip free run in Clacton, MP suggests

Bucket and spade on beach

The Conservative party should consider giving Douglas Carswell a free rein and not field a candidate in the forthcoming Clacton byelection after a poll showed that the Ukip defector would trounce the Tories, the backbencher Nigel Evans has said.

As senior party figures played down the prospect of further defections to Ukip after Carswell joined the party last week from the Tories, Evans described the byelection as a distraction from David Cameron's goal of holding an EU membership referendum.

Evans spoke out after a Survation/Mail on Sunday poll found that Carswell was on course to win Ukip's first commons seat with 64% of the vote, way ahead of the Tories on 20%. Labour was on 13% in the poll and the Liberal Democrats were on 2%.

Evans told the Murnaghan programme on Sky News: "There is a little bit of me that says perhaps we should sit this one out and let Douglas get on with it because it's a total distraction quite frankly."

The MP for Ribble Valley, who had to stand down as deputy Speaker of the House of Commons after he was charged with sex abuse offences of which of he was subsequently acquitted, said he had been canvassing with 250 young Tories over the weekend who all felt let down by Carswell.

Evans said: "Most of them were Eurosceptic that spoke to me so they believe exactly what Douglas feels, what they do believe is that the only way we are going to make any inroads into this is by having a referendum in 2017. How are we going to do that? The Tories winning in 2015. What's Douglas doing? He's setting that back and it really makes no sense to me at all."

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Nicholas Watt, political correspondent, for The Guardian on Sunday 31st August 2014 21.30 Europe/London

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