Ukip donor Stuart Wheeler has confirmed he wined and dined around eight backbench Tory MPs in an attempt to encourage them to switch allegiance.
The former party treasurer said he could not give names but boasted that there were a further eight Conservative MPs he could have “easily” invited out to lunch.
Mr Wheeler said he took the MPs to a restaurant called Serafina, which he said was no longer open.
He said: “I didn’t say ‘Would you defect?’. I would say ‘Would you like to meet Nigel Farage?’. Some of them said ‘yes’ and obviously Douglas Carswell was one of them.”
Asked about Mr Carswell’s chances in the by-election triggered by his defection to Ukip, he replied: “It is a very big dilemma and to be practical about it, there is nothing more pathetic than an MP who has lost his seat. And certainly two years ago if you defected to Ukip, you were almost certain that you would lose your seat.
“Now in this case, Douglas Carswell is highly distinguished with a decent majority of highly loyal supporters who are loyal to him at least as much as to the Conservative Party, I think.
“It is my opinion that he will win and if he does, then obviously other MPs, Conservative MPs who are on the brink, will be encouraged to defect as well. I don’t say they will, but they will be tempted.”
At the suggestion that Mr Carswell had betrayed his constituents and in doing so done exactly what he said was wrong with British politics, Mr Wheeler said: “I don’t think it is undermining faith in politics at all.
“A politician’s duty is to the country and if he thinks the party he is with is not doing the right thing for the country, then it is perfectly OK, indeed it is admirable, for him to defect to another party.
“Churchill did it at least once. I think he may have done it twice.”
On the prospect of Tory defections increasing Labour’s chances next year, he said Ed Miliband’s party was “terrified” of Ukip.