UKIP ‘can be opposition in Cambridgeshire’ - party leader Nigel Farage ahead of Huntingdonshire tour

UKIP leader Nigel Farage in Eastleigh, Hampshire ahead of a by-election caused by former Cabinet min

UKIP leader Nigel Farage in Eastleigh, Hampshire ahead of a by-election caused by former Cabinet minister Chris Huhne's resignation after he admitted perverting the course of justice over a speeding offence. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday February 9, 2013. Voters in Eastleigh go to the polls on February 28 in what promises to be the most closely and bitterly fought by-election since the Coalition took power. See PA story POLITICS Eastleigh. Photo credit should read: Chris Ison/PA Wire - Credit: PA

“You can’t ignore us any more”, was the rallying call from UKIP national party leader Nigel Farage MEP ahead of his open-top bus tour of Huntingdonshire later today (Wednesday). Cambridgeshire is one of UKIP’s main targets in the county council elections and the party believes it can not only increase its standing but replace the Liberal Democrats as the opposition.

IT is a fairly ambitious ask when you consider UKIP currently has just two county councillors and will need to take 10 seats off the Liberal Democrats – or up to 20 off the Conservatives – to hit its target of becoming the opposition party at Shire Hall.

But this is the first time UKIP has contested every county council seat in Huntingdonshire and Fenland – it has candidates in all but 15 seats in the county. There are more UKIP candidates standing in Huntingdonshire than Lib Dems.

Peter Reeve, who is fighting to retain his Ramsey ward seat, said this is the first time UKIP could feasibly take control of the county council, “if the people want it”.

That may seem unlikely, but in just 20 years UKIP has moved from political obscurity into mainstream politics – from losing deposits to finishing second in the recent Eastleigh by-election.

In Huntingdonshire part of the success can be attributed to the work of Cllr Reeve and his colleagues on Ramsey Town Council, including UKIP’s first mayor Lisa Duffy.

A lot has happened in the town through their governance and hard work – they’ve cleared rubbish off the streets and cleaned toilets – and attracted the attention of the party leader.

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“It started in Huntingdonshire,” Mr Farage told The Hunts Post on Monday. “The great success over in Ramsey has been Lisa, Peter and the rest of the party who have shown they are willing to roll up their sleeves and put in the hard work needed. UKIP has built on this, and there is an extremely high level of support. You feel optimistic about our chances, talking to Peter Reeve, we feel we can be positive. The growth of UKIP has been quite rapid – we have made immense progress in a short space of time.

“I think the time of the other political parties of writing us off has come to an end. They can try to write us off all they want, they’re not going to achieve anything by it.”

Mr Farage said his ‘Common Sense Tour’ of the country has so far been a big success and has increased support for UKIP. The tour stops today in Huntingdon at 2pm before heading to St Ives and Ramsey.

“On my tour I have been from Cornwall to Hadrian’s Wall and now I am on my way back. Throughout we have gained support for our views on the open-door immigration policy for Romanians and Bulgarians and our opposition to windfarms.

“Generally in Britain political allegiance is class based but we have seen a change and the fascinating thing about UKIP, something that has never been seen before in the country, is that our support spans all classes and cultures.”

But UKIP have to overcome the Conservatives. Cambridgeshire – with the exception of the city – is a Tory stronghold and the group at Shire Hall has been very pro-active on lots of issues that would make a real difference to lots of people.

The campiagn for the new A14 and for better broadband are just two examples.

Group leader Nick Clarke said: “As their name suggests UKIP are a single issue party. I am not worried in the slightest.

“The Prime Minister has been very helpful with setting out a referendum on our country’s EU position.

“I think it’s very clear to most Conservatives that we want to do trade with Europe, we want to go on holiday to Europe, but we don’t want to be ruled by Europe, which is a fair position.”

While UKIP believes the party has come far, they have not come far enough, according to Lib Dem leader at Shire Hall Kilian Bourke – the only real contest is between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives, he said.

“With only one councillor UKIP can say what they want,” Mr Bourke said. “But the bottom line is that only the Liberal Democrats have the numbers to challenge the Conservatives across Cambridgeshire and the discipline to provide a real, costed alternative to their excesses. The Lib Dems led the opposition to the 25 per cent pay rise that most of the Tories voted for and now we propose to sell off their overgrand Shire Hall HQ, which costs £1million a year to maintain poorly.

“By investing in green energy we would bring in funds to improve basic services, which would allow us to better maintain our schools and pavements, provide much-needed nursery places, and improve our bus service.

“The real contest is between the Liberal Democrats and the county Conservatives, who have become wedded to the trappings of power.”