Cameron denies lurch to right

Prime Minister David Cameron
Prime Minister David Cameron
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David Cameron has insisted the Conservatives will not echo Ukip’s tone on immigration as the party battles the Eurosceptics in a second by-election sparked by a Tory defector.

Ukip is on course for a resounding victory in the Rochester and Strood vote next month, with a new poll putting the party 13 points ahead.

Pressed on concerns raised by British Asian voters about the tone of the immigration debate, the Prime Minister said Britain would continue to welcome “new arrivals” but needed fair controls.

In an interview with Nihal on the BBC’s Asian Network, Mr Cameron said: “I don’t think we should be adopting anybody else’s tone about things.

“I think what the British public want to see, and many British Asians that I meet want to see, is they want to see a continuation of this country being open, tolerant, compassionate and welcoming to new arrivals, which is absolutely what we are.

“They want us to continue to be a successful multi-racial country that celebrates the diversity that we have here in the United Kingdom, but at the same time they want to see fair and controlled immigration.

“I think people’s frustration, and I hear this a lot from British Asians, is that the system hasn’t been as controlled as they would like. That means controlling immigration from outside the European Union, making sure it’s fair, making sure there are clear rules and those rules are applied and within the European Union also making sure that we have a better grip of the situation there.”

Ukip is predicted to scoop up 43 per cent of the votes, well ahead of the Conservatives on 30 per cent, a ComRes study found.

It put Labour on 21 per cent while the Liberal Democrats languished on 3 per cent, level-pegging with the Greens.

Around four in 10 voters who backed the Conservatives at the last general election intend to vote Ukip in the November 20 poll, according to the research.

But the Lib Dems are also set to lose 39 per cent of backers to the anti-Brussels party on the day, while Labour is poised to haemorrhage 30 per cent of its previous supporters.

Among those who did not turn up to the ballot box in 2010, 57 per cent said they planned to support Mark Reckless, the Tory defector who triggered the by-election when he switched allegiances.

The findings sound a note of caution for the Conservative Party in the way it is fighting the campaign to retain the Kent seat - 66 per cent of those polled said that by sending so many politicians to the constituency, the Tories were “coming across as desperate”.

Voters were fairly evenly split over whether Mr Reckless had betrayed his constituents by defecting, with 46 per cent agreeing compared with 48 per cent who did not.

Most voters - 62 per cent - agreed that the by-election was a good chance for them to show David Cameron and the Conservative Party how unhappy they were with the Government.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly warned voters that backing Ukip would pave the way for Ed Miliband to take the keys to No 10.

But asked by ComRes if they were worried about that possibility, 54 per cent disagreed compared with 38 per cent.

The Conservatives are expected to announce the name of their candidate for the by-election later today.

They staged an open primary - a poll open to voters regardless of which party they support - to chose between local councillors Kelly Tolhurst and Anna Firth.

:: ComRes interviewed 1,500 adults in Rochester and Strood by telephone between October 17 and 21.