UKIP Leader Farage Seeks to Hold Balance of Power in 2015Jeremy Hodges
U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage said he hopes his insurgent anti-European movement will hold the balance of power in Parliament after the next general election as its support grows across the country.
“Come and join our people’s army,” Farage said in his keynote speech today to a packed auditorium at the party’s annual conference in Doncaster, northern England. “I am sick to death of hearing that if you vote for UKIP you will split the vote. If you vote for UKIP you will get UKIP.”
After topping the ballot in the European Parliament elections in May, UKIP is now regularly polling close to 15 percent support, twice the level of Britain’s traditional third party, the Liberal Democrats. The party is seeking to win a House of Commons seat for the first time in a special election in Clacton, Essex, next month, after the local Tory lawmaker defected.
With the Labour opposition just a couple of percentage points ahead of Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives in opinion polls, next year’s general election may produce a second successive hung Parliament, in which neither main party can govern alone. Farage is targeting both Tory and Labour-held seats in May.
“If we get this right, and if we win enough seats in that Parliament in what is going to be a tight general election, we could even say to people ‘vote UKIP to hold the balance of power,’” Farage told delegates.
“And if we hold the balance of power there won’t just be a referendum on our EU membership, there will be a culture change in British politics,” he said. “It will be a kind of politics that represents ordinary men and women in this country. It will be politics of change, it will be a politics that is better than the one we have today.”
Doncaster is home to three parliamentary seats all held by Labour, one of them by its leader, Ed Miliband.
“We are parking the tanks on the Labour Party’s lawn,” Farage said.
Labour has gone on the attack against UKIP in the past few days, accusing it of being “More Tory than the Tories.” Farage singled out disenfranchised Labour voters with his speech attacking immigration, foreign policy and changes to the state-run National Health Service.
“So let’s fight the Labour Party back on the National Health Service, they’ve done more than anybody to actually bring private money into the health service and it’s not UKIP that will do it,” he said.
UKIP says it is now the second party in the north, having overtaken the Tories and put Labour’s heartlands under threat. Delegates expressed confidence it can cause an upset in a by-election on Oct. 9, in Heywood and Middleton, near Manchester, following the death of Labour lawmaker Jim Dobbin.
Farage offered UKIP as the genuine party of choice to avoid “parties that look the same,” and “parties that sound the same.”
“That vote for UKIP is not a protest vote,” he said. “They’re voting for us because the establishment failed them, failed their families and failed their lives.”
Before the leader’s speech, UKIP’s economy spokesman, Patrick O’Flynn, outlined the party’s key economic policies, which include a pledge to raise the personal income-tax allowance to the level of the minimum wage. There’s also a proposal to look into a luxury tax -- a levy on expensive consumer goods. That could include cars costing more than 50,000 pounds ($81,000), handbags costing more than 1,000 pounds and pairs of shoes valued at more than 200 pounds, he suggested.
“People say that the problem with indirect taxation is that it’s regressive,” O’Flynn said in an interview after his speech. “If you have a single flat rate of VAT, it probably is regressive. But why should it be?” he said, referring to value-added tax, a levy on sales.
“Why can’t you have a higher rate of VAT on luxury goods, given we have a global, super-rich elite inhabiting our capital city more and more, spending at the high end,” he said.
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