UKIP has handed a boost to Shipley MP Philip Davies – by hinting the anti-Europe party will not run against him at the next general election.

Party leader Nigel Farage said he would give a free run to any candidate prepared to defy his or her leader by pledging to vote to quit the EU.

Mr Farage said: “I think we should make common cause and not stand against that candidate.”

Mr Davies helped launch the Better Off Out group, which campaigns for the UK to leave the European Union and is backed by around a dozen Conservative MPs.

At the election, he will defend a healthy majority of almost 10,000 in Shipley, but any UKIP candidate would split the right-of-centre vote.

Last night, Mr Davies said: “As I launched the Better Off Out Group in 2006, that would certainly mean that they would not stand against me.”