Nigel Farage's suggestion of a Tory-Ukip pact is gaining traction among Conservative members, despite his demand the tie-up comes at the cost of their leader David Cameron.
A survey of over 800 party members by ConservativeHome found 34% backed a pact with Ukip for the 2015 general election. Thirty-three per cent oppose such a move and 33% want to put off the decision for now.
The clear enthusiasm among the grassroots for some sort of accommodation with Ukip comes after the right-wing party secured a projected national vote share of 23% in last Thursday's local elections, just two points behind the Conservatives' 25%.
Yesterday Ukip leader Farage made clear he would be open to some sort of deal, but not with Cameron as the party leader.
The scorn for Ukip shown by Cameron early in his leadership, when he described their supporters as "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists", was reinforced again today by a tweet from chancellor George Osborne following up Ken Clarke's dismissal of Ukip as "clowns".
The circus section in the Knutsford Royal May Day parade. No double meaning I promise. twitter.com/George_Osborne…— George Osborne (@George_Osborne) May 4, 2013
Tory backbenchers have expressed their frustration at that approach, however.
"I think the comments made about them were contemptuous, and wrong," David Davis told the Mail.
"It’s a mindset start. But we've also got to make them feel that we care about their issues, that we care about the taxes they have."
Conservative backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg suggested Farage should replace Nick Clegg as deputy prime minister, telling the BBC: "I think that would be a better bet for Conservatism and the right wing in British politics."
Such a move would not be possible until after the next election, of course. Farage revealed yesterday he intends to stand for parliament in 2015. He is currently an MEP.
Peter Bone called for the Conservatives to abandon policies like legalising gay marriage and meeting overseas aid commitments in order to pave the way for a deal.
"There was a tremendous Conservative vote – there were the conservatives that voted Conservative and the conservatives who voted Ukip," he said. "The trick is to get us all together again."
The local elections have also renewed calls for a Commons vote on an EU referendum before the general election.
Eurosceptics want the issue to be put to a vote which would force Labour and the Liberal Democrats to defeat the government, making their position clearer.
Cameron has only promised a draft bill, however, which is unlikely to see scrutiny in the Commons chamber.
"Of course we may challenge other parties to support it," Conservative chairman Grant Shapps said yesterday. "If we can get people to support it, then it can come before the parliament."