In Depth

Boris Johnson: Don't fear Farage, he's 'one of us'

London Mayor tells Ken Clarke to 'calm down' and says Tories should be 'comforted' by UKIP's rise

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BORIS JOHNSON has rubbished the veteran Tory MP Ken Clarke for "freaking out" over the threat posed by UKIP and their leader Nigel Farage, who are threatening to eat deep into the Conservatives' core vote in Thursday's local elections.

Clarke repeated the withering verdict of David Cameron in 2006 that UKIP was packed with "fruitcakes and closet racists".

"I've met people who satisfy both those descriptions in UKIP," Clarke told the Daily Mail. "Indeed, some of the people who have assured me they are going to vote UKIP I would put in that category. I rather suspect they have never voted for me."

Right on cue, Godfrey Bloom, a UKIP MEP, told BBC Radio 5 last night that firms should not employ women of child-bearing age due to what he called "draconian" employment laws.

"If I wanted a receptionist or I wanted a dental nurse I would be thinking very carefully about the age of that woman because she has to turn up at 9 o'clock every morning, said Bloom. This isn't rocket science is it? This is perfectly straightforward small business policy."

The Guardian's Patrick Wintour called the MEP Godfrey van de Bloom in a Tweet and reports that Ed Miliband is backing Cameron in trying to bar Farage from joining the leaders of the three major parties for the televised debates at the next General Election.

But in his column for the Daily Telegraph today, Johnson compares Clarke's hostility to UKIP to the actor Nicholas Cage "freaking out" in the film Face Off when someone steals his identity. Johnson advises people like Clarke to "Keep Calm and Carry On being Conservative".

Boris praises Farage as "One of Us" and describes him as "a rather engaging geezer". "He's [Farage] anti-pomposity, he's anti-political correctness, he's anti-loony Brussels regulation," says Boris, adding: "He's in favour of low tax, and sticking up for small business, and sticking up for Britain."

"Rather than bashing UKIP," says Boris, "I reckon Tories should be comforted by their rise – because the real story is surely that these voters are not turning to the one party that is meant to be providing the official opposition. The rise of UKIP confirms a) that a Tory approach is broadly popular and b) that in the middle of a parliament, after long years of recession, and with growth more or less flat, the Labour Party is going precisely nowhere."

This opens the interesting prospect that a Tory party led by Boris (rather than his brother, Jo) could do a deal with UKIP to avoid both sides fighting each other at the next election. Farage has ruled out any electoral pact so long as Cameron is the Tory leader, but if UKIP do well and the Tories lose 800 seats on Thursday night, the prospect of Boris replacing Cameron will become less like a fantasy for the nutters' party.

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