A five-year freeze on immigration will be the centrepiece of the UK Independence Party’s election campaign, as the party’s former leader compared the fight against the EU to the struggle against Hitler in the 1930s. A doubling of prison places, workfare for benefit claimants, support for a free Tibet and a campaign for “real matrons” also feature in the party’s first full manifesto.
Launching the document in Milton Keynes today, Nigel Farage, the party’s former leader, said the main parties’ willingness to cede power to the EU would make the coming election, “the most boring, pointless, futile general election that has ever been held in the history of this country”. Dismissing David Cameron as ‘the friendly game show host that leads the Conservative Party’, Mr Farage said that only UKIP could be trusted to give voters a real say in how Britain is governed.
“Straight talking” will be the campaign slogan, and Mr Farage said that other parties were unwilling to tell the truth about immigration. “We’re already overcrowded and we don’t want the population to go to 70 million,” he said. “The only people who should decide who settles here should be the British people, but they can’t do that in the EU.”
Mr Farage won cheers from the hall when he mentioned his recent harangue in the European Parliament, during which he compared the new president of the European Council, Herman von Rompuy, to a “damp rag” and a “low-grade bank clerk”. “I will apologise to bank clerks the world over but I will not apologise to the president of Europe,” he said today, before comparing the vilification he had received for the speech to the treatment of those who spoke out against the threat of Nazi Germany. “Those that were prepared to speak out were condemned in exactly the same terms. The entire political class said “we mustn’t be nasty to that nice Mr Hitler”’, he said.
To cries of ‘not yet’ from the hall, he added: “I am not pretending that the EU poses us a military threat – certainly not with Baroness Ashton in charge of the European army.”
Mr Farage will give the party its first realistic change of a Westminster seat when he challenges the Speaker, John Bercow, in Buckingham. Mr Farage, who resigned as party leader to contest the seat, said he was standing because “I think he as Speaker of the House of Commons epitomises what is wrong with our professional class of career politicians.”
In 2005 UKIP won just over 2 per cent of the vote, but party strategists are hoping for four times that share this time around as they capitalise on anger over the expenses scandal and public distrust of politicians. UKIP is also less divided now than it was five years ago, when it was rocked by battles over Robert Kilroy-Silk, the MEP and former daytime TV host, who defected to form his own party. The party’s election co-ordinator, James Pryor, urged the delegates to “end the infighting” for the campaign, adding to laughter, “We can start again after the election”.
UKIP’s first election posters focus on immigration, with the slogan “5,000 new people settle here every week. Say no to mass immigration”.
But for the first time, the party has developed policies across the range of Westminster responsibilities, proposing a law and order crackdown, with new rights for homeowners to defend their property, longer prison sentences, a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ rule for persistent offenders and repeal of the Human Rights Act. UKIP has also committed to banning the burka and promoting a pro-British policy of ‘uniculturalism’ instead of ‘multiculturalism and political correctness’. Saving imperial weights and measures and a sceptical stance on global warming are also promised.
Once outside the EU, the party aims to build closer links to the Commonwealth and promote democracy around the world, including Tibet, Taiwan and Burma.
The party would allow private companies to bid to provide NHS services and the deputy leader, David Campbell Bannerman, promised to ‘bring back real matrons, not pretend ones’ with greater powers to keep hospitals free of super bugs.