REDDITCH has been revealed as a key target for UKIP at next year’s General Election by party leader Nigel Farage.
In an exclusive face-to-face interview with the Standard, Mr Farage said the borough seat – being contested for UKIP by businessman Peter Jewell – was one of a number in the West Midlands they were in with a serious chance of winning.
“We have been building in the town over the last two or three years and we have an exceptional candidate who is unlike the sort of things we see in British politics anymore – successful, entrepreneurial and international – and when it comes to the business agenda, growth and jobs and attracting investment into towns he’s got something special to offer.”
He admitted he had been ‘a bit surprised’ by the speed of the party’s success which he said was being driven by voter disenchantment with the established political parties and the fact UKIP had been right about the Euro and immigration.
“We are kind of a form horse, we have made some big calls and been right and that’s given us credibility and a fair bit of respect.”
Analysts suggest UKIP could win anything from four to 100 seats at next May’s national poll. At the 2014 Redditch Borough Council elections the party polled 21 per cent of the votes, without contesting every seat, although it was on a lower turnout. The borough does also not cover the whole of the Parliamentary seat, which includes Hanbury and the Lenches, offering the chance to hoover up disgruntled Tory voters.
But Mr Farage said if the election resulted in UKIP holding the balance of power they would not go into coalition with any party but would be willing to support a minority Conservative or Labour government, in return for a guaranteed referendum on Britain’s EU membership before 2017.
“Mr Cameron wouldn’t naturally be my perfect choice of friendship but you have to be sensible about things like this and if we get ourselves into a position of considerable responsibility we have to use it.”
Mr Farage also took the opportunity to spell out some of the party’s other policies it will be campaigning on, including axing subsidies for onshore and offshore wind farms, supporting nuclear power and fracking.
He said saving £8.5billion by leaving the EU, scrapping HS2 and cutting £9billion from the foreign aid budget would form part of their strategy to reduce the nation’s budget deficit, while tax on the minimum wage and tuition fees for engineering and science degrees would be scrapped.
Mr Farage said the NHS would remain free at the point of use but the organisational structure would be simplified with elected health boards running hospitals and primary care.
“If you want things to stay the same, go on voting the way you always have. If you think there’s a chance of changing things, we are the vehicle for that.” he added.
*Mr Farage was speaking to the Standard at a fund-raising dinner at Worcestershire Cricket Club for Redditch UKIP candidate Peter Jewell.