Farage Turns on ‘Big Business’ as He Woos Labour Voters for UKIP

U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage spoke out against big business as he started his campaign for the May 7 general election with an appeal to supporters of the main opposition Labour Party.

Seeking to portray UKIP as champions of “the little man and woman,” Farage said he would stand up for people who had been let down by the “career political class” represented by Labour leader Ed Miliband and Prime Minister David Cameron.

“They’ve all become victims of the system by which our economy works; we have a lethal combination of big government, big banks and big business,” Farage said. “We want to redefine capitalism in a way it can work for everybody.”

The growth in backing for Farage’s anti-immigration, anti-European Union party in recent years is making the outcome of this year’s election hard to call. With the Greens and the Scottish Nationalists also taking support from the major parties, polls suggest neither Cameron’s Tories nor Labour are set for a majority in the House of Commons.

Farage, whose party regularly shows support of about 15 percent in opinion polls, said UKIP would be in a straight fight with Labour in its heartland in the north of England and would win votes by offering blue-collar candidates for blue-collar voters.

Fantasy Island

He chose a cinema in the rundown seaside resort of Canvey Island, east of London, to start his campaign, in a district that UKIP is seeking to gain from the Conservatives. With the Fantasy Island amusement park at the end of the street and the Codfather chip shop next door, it was emblematic of areas where people feel left behind by modern Britain, and where UKIP has built its biggest support.

Farage pledged to force an earlier referendum on European Union membership -- promised by Cameron by the end of 2017 -- as a condition for supporting a minority government and ruled out any deal with Labour if it continues to oppose holding such a vote. He said UKIP would not enter into a formal coalition with either of the main parties.

“We’ve crossed the class barrier in British politics and we pick up support from across every social sector,” Farage said. “Our candidates and activists are reaching voters the other parties can’t reach; we’re engaging with people who haven’t voted for 20 years.”

There was little detail on policy in Farage’s speech, as he sought to set the tone with a series of statements of core values prefaced with the phrase “we believe in a Britain that,” and punctuated by the UKIP leader bouncing on his toes.

Hospital Parking

He did offer action on street-level issues, including scrapping car-parking charges at hospitals and awarding medals for everyone who has served in the British armed forces. He also said his party would stop “Saudi billionaires” reclaiming the sales tax on purchases made in Britain when they return home after visits.

Farage declined to answer a question about the timing of budget-deficit reduction after his speech, and he said details on the party’s policy on the National Health Service would be announced on Feb. 23. Miliband has made health a dominant issue in Labour’s campaign, arguing that organizational changes introduced by Cameron are destroying the state-funded NHS.

UKIP will work both against Labour’s policy for a tax on the most expensive houses and the Conservative policy of stopping welfare benefits for people living in social housing with more rooms than they need, Farage said.

“We’ll campaign against the bedroom tax and the mansion tax, because what they do is further divide a country that’s already not at ease with itself,” he said. “We believe that, with different leadership and different politics, the people of this country can do better.”