THE leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, Nigel Farage, has an ambitious long-term goal for Huntingdonshire – ousting the Liberal Democrats as the recognised opposition at Pathfinder House.
The MEP has not put a timescale on achieving this, but, ahead of his public meeting in St Ives next week, Mr Farage told The Hunts Post it was “very likely” that his party could start giving the Lib Dems a run for their money.
Overthrowing the Conservatives on Huntingdonshire District Council, it seems, is still a step too far even for this politician’s rhetoric.
But Huntingdonshire is a happy stomping ground for UKIP – Mr Farage, 47, said he was pleased with the support the party received in the district.
And he believed that support would grow with many Conservatives in Huntingdonshire “horrified” by Government cuts.
“Who would have thought we would have done what we have in 10 years,” he said. “Not only have we become a mainstream political party with a growing membership, we have stimulated so much debate.
“It’s always difficult establishing toe-holes in any area but once we do we make good progress.”
According to Mr Farage, UKIP has increased its support in Huntingdonshire over the past four years with membership of the party growing from 20 to 62 in Ramsey alone. Nine of the 17 seats on Ramsey Town Council are held by UKIP, with Lisa Duffy the first UKIP mayor.
While he is proud of what the party has achieved in the district, he is under no illusions about the task ahead.
“Support takes time to build and it’s a challenge,” he said. “But we intend to set out our programme on how we plan to meet that challenge. So much of what happens at local level is dictated by EU law, so it’s important for us to put forward a plan on how the future of an independent Britain should be governed – and that starts at a local level by devolving power to local people.”
The politician said he had held more than 1,000 public meetings over the past 15 years with the primary goal of “exciting people about politics again”.
“We started off small, and the meetings just keep getting bigger,” he said. “But what we’re really noticing is that they’re becoming more diverse – there’s a new strand of Euro-scepticism emerging, particularly among young people.”
He added: “There’s a real apathy in politics and there has been for some time. People think it doesn’t matter who’s in power or who you vote for – that it won’t make any difference to your day-to-day life. Our aim is to offer a credible alternative and to try to enthuse people about politics.”
Mr Farage said that at the meeting UKIP would be setting out its stall for how it intended to fight the local elections in May, when 18 HDC seats will be up for grabs.
“I would be very surprised and disappointed if we didn’t field a candidate for every seat,” he said.
INFORMATION: The public meeting is on Thursday, March 8 at the Burgess Hall, St Ives. Doors 7pm for a 7.30pm start.