Ukip would be open to do a deal with the Conservative party if it elected Michael Gove as leader, Nigel Farage said today.
The eyebrow-raising comment came amid a day of claim and counter-claim, as Farage shot down Michael Fabricant's proposal of a Ukip/Tory pact with the decisive statement: "It's war."
The Conservative elections adviser believes he could stop party support haemorrhaging to the eurosceptic party if David Cameron promised an in/out EU referendum in return for them not standing against Tories.
The plan fell on deaf ears because Farage is still livid with the prime minister's description of this party as a "bunch of closet racists".
He tweeted: "No deals with the Tories: it's war.
"Cameron's comments over the Rotherham case mean a deal's simply not possible."
Appearing on the Daily Politics this lunchtime, the Ukip leader said he would only do a deal with the Tories if education secretary Gove became leader, saying he was "open minded" and "thinks things through".
He then told Sky News: "The real obstacle to any deal with the Conservative party is the Conservative party leader.
"If you're a Tory and you want our powers back either you come and join Ukip or you get rid of Mr Cameron."
Downing Street joined Farage in slapping down the pact idea.
The Conservative party said Fabricant did not speak for it in the matter, prompting bemused comments across Westminster about his job title.
Labour vice-chair Michael Dugher said: "For No 10 to say that the vice chairman of the Conservative party doesn't speak for the Conservatives is ridiculous. It shows how weak David Cameron has become and is yet another sign that Cameron's Tories are completely divided over Europe.
"Instead of fighting for a deal for Britain on the EU budget, the Tories are too busy trying to do a deal for the Tory party with Ukip."
Fabricant's discussion paper, The Pact, said Ukip was unlikely to win a constituency seat but could draw enough support to lose marginal fights for the Conservatives.
"It is time to consider actively whether a rapprochement might be possible before the 2015 general election," he wrote.
"Such an offer would not be a sign of weakness by the Conservative party. It would be a pragmatic extension of existing philosophy from a party of government.
"I recognise that any such move would be unpopular with our coalition partners and so the timing of any such declaration would be critical."
The deal would hand the Tories 20–40 extra seats, Fabricant suggested.