Pro-EU Conservative MPs are reporting sharp rises in applications to join their local parties, leading to fears that they are being targeted by UKIP supporters in a plot to replace Theresa May with a Brexit-supporting Prime Minister.
Gerard Batten, the UKIP leader denied the claims and said that he “was not aware of anyone doing this” and “definitely would not encourage it”.
Talking to talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer, Mr Batten said: “We’re not losing members, we are actually putting members on steadily for the last few months.
'Being a member of two parties would be against our rules'
“I am very pleased with how it is going up. I am not aware of anyone doing this, quite honestly I have had nobody saying to me that they are doing this.
“If it is happening at all, it is individuals doing it, it is not sanctioned in any way. To be a member of two parties would be against our rules anyway.
“My guess that this is motivated by Brexiteers who voted to leave. If there are a few individuals in Ukip who have done that, it is without official sanction.
“We don’t know anything about it and we definitely wouldn’t encourage it. We want loyalty to Ukip.
“I want to build up the strength of our party, not worry about the Tories.”
UKIP saw an increase of 3,200 members in July this year taking latest membership figures to 24,000.
Arron Banks calls for supporters to 'unseat May'
Arron Banks, the former Ukip donor behind Leave.EU, has appealed to supporters of the campaign group to join the Tories to “unseat May”. He said that an influx of Brexit supporters would ensure that a leader “like Boris Johnson or Jacob Rees-Mogg” would triumph in a leadership contest should Mrs May resign or be forced out.
Banks wrote in The Sunday Times this week: “We will support Brexit MPs and recruit new members, hopefully in areas where the party has extreme ‘remain’ MPs.”
Last week Banks and his associate Andy Wigmore applied to join the Conservative Party. A spokesman said their applications had not been approved.
The Conservatives’ last recorded membership total was 124,000. Mr Banks has set a target of encouraging another 50,000 new members to ensure that the party achieves Brexit. Under Conservative Party rules applications must be approved by the local association, but there is no set criteria other than that applicants must not have been previously expelled.
Local parties represented by MPs including Stephen Hammond, Dominic Grieve, Anna Soubry, Nicky Morgan and Sarah Wollaston have each reported significant increases in membership in recent weeks.
To unseat Theresa May as Conservative leader, 48 MPs are required to write letters of no confidence to the 1922 Committee of backbenchers. That would automatically trigger a vote in which she would need a simple majority to win and ensure that she could not be challenged again for another year.