Cameron lures UKIP voters after losing candidate

British Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader David Cameron answers questions after giving a speech in Bristol on April 6, 2015 (AFP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
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London (AFP) - Prime Minister David Cameron urged those considering voting for the UK Independence Party to "come home" to the Conservative fold on Monday.

The Tory leader made the call after a former Conservative party election candidate announced he was switching to UKIP ahead of the general election on May 7.

"I would say to those people that I totally understand the frustration people have felt about issues like immigration where they want more done, and we will do more," Cameron urged potential UKIP voters.

"But this election is not a time to send a message or make a protest."

"This election is about choosing the government of our country for the next five years, and the choice could not be starker between a Conservative government led by me, continuing with a plan that's working, and putting it all at risk."

Cameron said that Britain "deserved" a referendum on membership of the European Union -- a key UKIP demand, and something which the prime minister has promised by 2017 if he is re-elected.

His appeal came after former Conservative candidate Mike Whitehead said he was switching to UKIP, saying he was unhappy with the local running of the Conservative party.

Though predicted to take just a handful of seats, UKIP's growth in popularity has the potential to sap votes from the Conservative party and Labour in one of the most tightly-fought elections ever.