© The Financial Times Ltd 2016 FT and 'Financial Times' are trademarks of The Financial Times Ltd.
April 23, 2013 11:30 pm
Nigel Farage suggested he could form an election pact with education secretary Michael Gove as the Conservative leader as the Ukip chief promised his party was on the brink of causing an “earthquake” in British politics.
The leader of the UK Independence party, famed for liking a drink, a cigarette and laddish jokes, sought to present a more serious side on Tuesday as he spoke of how his rightwing party will use the local council elections next week to establish “bridgeheads” in councils before going on to win the European parliament elections in 2014.
“Whatever one thinks of Ukip, this thing has gone way beyond being a single two fingers up to John Major and Maastricht; it’s a party that’s now got roots, it’s a party that has now got a base,” Mr Farage said during a press lunch at Westminster. He added that his party could have a substantial number of MPs at the next election as he attacked Mr Cameron as a “social democrat” who will be turfed out as prime minister come 2015.
“The prospects of a deal with David Cameron are just about zero. Who would I like to see lead the Conservatives, who could we do a deal with? I don’t know but I would have thought there are some very good thinking people like Michael Gove, who doesn’t just dismiss somebody’s point of view,” he said.
“Boris [Johnson, the London mayor] is, of course, a great pretender but history shows that they rarely win,” he added.
The Ukip leader said this year a pact might be possible if the Conservatives ditched their leader, broke up the coalition and held a quick referendum – preferably before the 2015 election.
Mr Farage said the Tory leader’s promise of a referendum on the EU in 2017 has made little difference to his party move beyond being a single-issue protest party.
“Five or seven years ago, had a Conservative leader, let alone a prime minister, said: ‘I promise a [EU] referendum’, we would have been poleaxed. As it is, this time round it has made absolutely no difference at all,” said Mr Farage. “North of Birmingham the Tory party is completely disappearing. In the urban north Ukip is becoming the opposition.”
Mr Farage said his party was on the cusp of realigning British politics and suggested Ukip could win a by-election in Portsmouth South should the Liberal Democrat Mike Hancock step down, having narrowly missed a win in Eastleigh this year.
But the Ukip leader, sporting a red rose in his lapel to mark St George’s day, also bought a light touch to proceedings, playing to the stereotype of the City slicker as he joked about long, boozy lunches and lap dance clubs
He said his party offered a breath of fresh air from establishment politics, arguing that David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband were “dull” cardboard cut-out politicians who all “look the same and sound the same”.
“At least I can say in contrast to that I honestly worked damn hard in the private sector in the City of London for 20 years, every day up until lunchtime,” said the former metals traders, to howls of laughter.
He also claimed he was once “unwittingly” taken to a lap dancing club in Strasbourg by a French presidential candidate. “It wasn’t my choice to go there, although it has to be said back in the 1980s working in the City I might have been to one or two of these establishments.”
The Ukip leader made the remarks after he was asked if it was appropriate for his party to field a council candidate in Abingdon who owned a lap dancing club. “Sounds to me like he is a free market entrepreneur. Providing he is operating properly within the law I am absolutely delighted we have real people, from the real world, running for Ukip rather than the cardboard cutouts,” he said.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2016. You may share using our article tools.
Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.
Sign up for email briefings to stay up to date on topics you are interested in