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'You might hate UKIP and hate Nigel, but you are still welcome'

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: April 03, 2013

  • After Callington, Nigel Farage moved on to Taunton (above) and Tiverton

Comments (16) UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage chose to kick off his pre-election national tour in the small Cornish town of Callington yesterday. Simon Parker went along to see him in action.

"I am just like you," was UKIP leader Nigel Farage's overriding message as he mingled with shoppers and dropped in at the Bull's Head for a pint. "I have the same hopes, the same concerns."

Short on policy revelations and long on chumminess, the thrust of the first leg of his two-week pre-election itinerary was to reassure those who might be uncertain that UKIP was not a party of "eccentrics, fruitcakes and gadflies", as Mr Farage's arch-nemesis David Cameron would have it.

Speaking to an audience of some 300 in Callington Town Hall, the man who touts himself as "Britain's most popular party leader" briefly laid out his aims, before offering the debate to the floor.

With standing room only and some people listening from corridors, he fielded an hour of questions on subjects from education and immigration to the economy and – unsurprisingly – Europe.

Boosted by its recent success in the Eastleigh by-election, where UKIP were second to the Liberal Democrats – with a 27.8% share of the vote – pushing the Conservatives into third place, he confirmed that his anti-EU party would field a record 2,000 candidates in the local council elections on May 2.

Billed as an open meeting, with the minimum of stage management, Mr Farage found himself on largely friendly ground. And although party officials were at pains to promote a policy of open questioning, there were moments when the meeting felt like a series of prompts for UKIP policy pronouncements.

Not so, said national campaign manager Rob Burberry, adding: "This meeting and the ones to follow over the next two weeks are all about bringing politics back to the people.

"You might hate UKIP and hate Nigel Farage, but you are still more than welcome. You can tell him what you like – which is not the case at other party meetings, which are minutely stage-managed."

One robust exchange between the stage and retired teacher Roger Catchpole saw Mr Farage squirming for a moment or two over a question key to UKIP's very existence: Who makes the laws in the European Union? Despite Mr Catchpole's accurate statement that the EU "proposes" laws and national parliaments "make" them, he was drowned out by the loud boos of a handful of audience members who were clearly only paying lip-service to the idea of free speech.

To his credit, Mr Farage did listen to his political opponent – even if his response was flippant.

Before retiring to the Bull's Head for a pint, the South East England MEP explained that the aim of his tour was to target traditional strongholds of the big three parties. He said: "Many ordinary people feel disenfranchised, but our policies appeal to them. The notion that everyone who votes UKIP is a retired lieutenant colonel living in Wiltshire who chokes on his breakfast because he can't believe the front page of The Daily Telegraph is a myth."

However, a group of A-level politics students from Saltash Community School were not impressed with the rhetoric. Liz Morrish said that while leader Mr Farage had an "impressive and engaging" style, she did not agree with UKIP policies. Fellow student Tom Jordan added: "He's trying to target the people who don't usually vote or haven't voted before – people who sometimes don't fully understand the policies. They are only convinced by him because he is a charismatic speaker."

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  • misspeach  |  April 07 2013, 1:23PM

    UKIP members are geriatric are they not such a bad thing even if it were true (which it isn't) at least they remember what this country was like, before the EU and mass immigration,causing no end of problems. I have just read that the EU want their own army, made up from all the EU countries, well! how else are they going to"CONTROL" us, because this is what the dictators intend to do. We are cutting down on our armed forces, now we know why.

    |   12
  • misspeach  |  April 07 2013, 1:17PM

    by eu blues, So! who DO you suggest to get us out of this mess. one things for sure, we know the libs/lab/cons lie through their teeth and dont keep any of their promises, UKIP have yet to prove themselves admitted but I believe in giving them a chance. At least Nigel answers questions when put to him.

    |   189
  • bucksfan  |  April 06 2013, 10:28AM

    baby_boomer says "Ah, my red arrow count has shot up! Wow, now I am really worried that I am a target for the Zimmer Popular Front." Don't forget the "Popular Front of the Zimmers" and the "Blue Rinse Alliance" or even the "Sanatogen Socialists"

    |   7
  • Baby_boomer  |  April 05 2013, 10:52PM

    Ah, my red arrow count has shot up! Wow, now I am really worried that I am a target for the Zimmer Popular Front. Clearly some old duffer has been handing out red crayons at the Bus Party's latest Nuremberg rally. Strange not only how the truth hurts, but how many people you can fit in a 'phone-box in Callington.

    |   -126
  • Baby_boomer  |  April 04 2013, 10:27PM

    The sensible mainstream and intelligent folk of this country do not need to read smirking Nigel's latest propaganda sheet put out by his beloved Saga Paramilitary Wing or those of its chums in The "Daily Hate-Mail" or The Daily "Express-Your Bigoted-Opinion". Just read any one of the following (take your pick!) - http://tinyurl.com/cdssksm http://tinyurl.com/crn3zqa http://tinyurl.com/d98r3yd http://tinyurl.com/cm46grx

    |   -259
  • eu_blues  |  April 04 2013, 9:58PM

    Stuff UKIP, Labour Lib Dems and Conservative. All political parties in the UK are corrupt. If you honestly believe UKIP will save you... You've got another thing coming. But I suppose people have to belive in someone to lead them to the slaughter...

  • Regennotdegen  |  April 04 2013, 6:23PM

    As others have said the Three main parties have lied to us all and slowly allowed the E.U. to turn our country into the laughing stock and dumping ground of Europe. Labour. Lead by someone prepared to stab his own brother in the back and happy to allow unlimited migration from the E.U. into this country leading to overstretched health, schools and welfare system. Lib Dem. No way after what Andrew George did in Penzance to scupper millions of pounds of investment in the harbour. Conservatives. It's their fault we're in the EU in the first place and prepared to spend billions of our money to prop up failed banks and keep their banker chums in Moet and Bolly. I will not vote for any of the main 3 which leaves me with UKIP who at least will stand up for us against the morons in Brussels.

    |   210
  • Len_Day  |  April 04 2013, 8:53AM

    'We won't get the ****** vote, the Nig-Nogs will never vote for us' Farage said the the founder of UKIP. You want to vote for a corrupt man like that?

    |   -78
  • wongtungchung  |  April 04 2013, 2:49AM

    UKIP will be getting my vote.

    |   296
  • josdave  |  April 03 2013, 11:16PM

    As far as I am concerned the three main parties by supporting blindingly this excuse for a union are betraying us. They have stood by while bit by bit of our sovereignty has been handed over to Brussells. Over 70% of our laws are made in Brussells with our own elected Parliament powerless to do anything about it. I cannot support any of the main three who all have a similar agenda on the EU so my vote goes to UKIP.

    |   -90