Paul Nuttall can be alternative to toxic Tories in Stoke, says UK Independence Party National Executive Committee member
- Credit: PA
The UK Independence Party's ruling committee would back leader Paul Nuttall '100pc' if he decides to stand in Stoke, one of its members has said.
Toby Coke said he hoped the leader would have a crack at it, adding that he would do very well in what seemed like 'fairly ripe sort of territory'.
While the leader of the UKIP group on Norfolk County Council, who joined the party's executive in 2015, said he thought Prime Minister Theresa May was doing a good job, and gave her eight out of ten for her 'sensible' Brexit speech on Tuesday, he said there were places like Stoke where some people would never vote for a Tory.
He also reiterated his personal view that his party should be doing pacts with the Conservatives to oust MPs who would try to fight against Britain's departure from the European Union.
Mr Coke said the Prime Minister's threat to walk away with no deal had been a good move, and she should be willing to walk away after a couple of months if other European Union leader show intransigeance.
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'If they were certain the UK was not bluffing and could walk away at any moment, all this talk of punishment would change fairly dramatically,' he added.
He said that UKIP should be keeping the government's feet to the fire on Brexit, but should work with the government when they were doing the right thing.
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But he insisted dividing lines could be drawn on other issues.
He said the government was 'pouring money down the drain' with its overseas budget when it should be spending money in the UK and eliminating the deficit.
'I was impressed by Priti Patel [the international development secretary] in the run up to the referendum, but she appears to have gone completely native. She comes over as a sensible decent sort of person, but she has certainly gone native on this one.' On the Stoke by-election - which was triggered by the resignation of centrist Labour MP Tristram Hunt - he said there would be many people in the northern cities who would not vote Conservative.
'They think they are toxic. In UKIP we are not. Particularly with a person like Paul Nuttall who is a genuine guy.
'He is a very nice chap, A genuine sort of guy. He is going to be the strong point in places like Stoke and up in the north.'
Mr Coke, who stood against Sir Henry Bellingham at the last General Election in North-West Norfolk, said he personally believed that if Mrs May called a snap election to firm up her support, his party should concentrate on the seats where there were people who voted remain who could 'screw the thing up'.
He confirmed he would not stand against Sir Henry Bellingham, who had come out as soon as he could to announce he would support a Brexit vote.
'We should be taking on people like Norman Lamb [the Liberal Democrat North Norfolk MP].'
But he said the only way that could be done was with a deal between the Tories and UKIP, although he had not yet had discussions with Conservatives in Norfolk.
'If you fight each other you are going to lose. At least that is what happened [in North Norfolk] last time,'
In the 2015 election Mr Lamb won the vote with a 4,043 strong majority. The UK Independence Party came in third behind the Conservatives with 8,328 votes.
'What matters is getting people into parliament who are for a proper Brexit. That would include Labour people, like Gisella Stuart, Frank Field and Kelvin Hopkins,' Mr Coke added.