Immigration will dominate European elections, says Farage
Ukip leader tells conference most British people have ‘genuine, legitimate and reasonable’ concerns on issue
UKIP leader Nigel Farage gives a press conference yesterday at the party’s spring conference in Torquay. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images
Fears by British people that “whole areas” have been taken over by immigrants will dominate May’s European Parliament elections in Britain, UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage has said.
Heightening focus on the issue, he said three-quarters of British people have “genuine, legitimate and reasonable concerns” about immigration, which are not being heeded by the major parties.
Asked if he thought parts of Britain “are a foreign land”, the Ukip leader spoke of being on a rush-hour train from Charing Cross station in London.
“It wasn’t until after we got past Grove Park that I could hear English being audibly spoken in the carriage.
“Does that make me feel slightly awkward? Yes, it does. I wonder what is really going on. And I am sure that that is a view that would be reflected by three-quarters of the population.
“That does not mean that we are anti-immigration,” he said. “But we do absolutely believe that we should be able to judge it both on quantity and on quality,” he said, during a testy press conference at his party’s spring conference in Torquay in Devon.
Undoubtedly, Mr Farage will have factored in that his remarks will meet criticism from Britain’s main parties but, equally, he believes his opinions chime with those on the street.
Insisting Ukip could win the largest number of British seats in the European Parliament, he said the May 22nd election is a defining moment for the party.
“Some will say I have raised the bar to a level I can’t fulfil. Well, I am a gambler. I’m not in politics for the same reason as other people. It isn’t about having a career in politics.
He “believed and hoped” the election campaign will “be dominated by immigration”, adding: “In the past it was seen as an abstract debate, now part of our everyday lives.”
Ukip’s strategy has been fuelled by figures on Thursday which show net immigration into the UK ran at nearly 250,000 in the last year, mostly from other European Union countries.
Normally, the European Parliament elections attract paltry attention from voters in Britain, though the public debate between Mr Farage and Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg is expected to win attention.
Seeking to feed off a mood of discontent, Mr Farage told voters to cause “an earthquake” in the May elections: “Don’t get mad with our political establishment, get even.”
Questioned about Ukip’s intentions after the MEP elections, Mr Farage ruled out a coalition of any kind with France’s National Front.
“Anti-Semitism is so deeply embedded in NF that it is not reformable, it is not a party that we are going to do business with, period,” he said.
The European Commission and others in the European elite, he said, want to portray all Eurosceptics as far-right when, in reality, they include people from across the political spectrum.