Interview With Nigel Farage

UKIP leader Nigel Farage on UKIP’s post-election party conference, and the long term prospects for the party beyond the EU referendum

While covering the 2015 UKIP party conference in Doncaster last month, I was able to grab a quick interview with the party leader, Nigel Farage, fresh from the stage after delivering his keynote speech.

This was immediately after what was a successful but fairly unremarkable speech by Farage’s standards, and before Day 1 of the UKIP conference was overshadowed by the row between donor Arron Banks and the party’s sole MP, Douglas Carswell.

As with my interview with Douglas Carswell, I wanted to get Farage to open up about his thoughts for the party looking beyond the Brexit referendum, and how UKIP’s current diverse coalition of different voters could be held together once the unifying goal of the EU referendum has been and gone.

Here is a transcript of my interview with Nigel Farage:

QUESTION: A different tone to this year’s conference. Obviously last year we had the defection of Mark Reckless, looking forward to the election, a bit different this year. Are you pleased with how it went, and are you pleased with the shape of UKIP as you’re fighting the referendum, looking ahead?

NIGEL FARAGE: The general election was very tough for us, you know, a massive amount of effort. Four million votes, very creditable in the circumstances and one seat, so pretty tough. And we’ve had, you know, a summer of regrouping and getting our finances back in shape, we’re now rocking and rolling and ready to go, we’ve got loads of elections to fight next year, but I think winning the referendum matters more than anything and I felt the response I got from the party membership is that they feel the same way too. And we’re going to join hands with the Arron Banks consortium Leave.EU and there’s going to be a united front for those who want to leave the European Union.

QUESTION: Obviously the referendum looms large at the moment, but looking beyond that, how well is UKIP positioned do you think to keep together its diverse support base of ex-Tories, ex-Labour types, libertarians, after the election when that common thread of the referendum is no longer there to hold everyone together?

NIGEL FARAGE: Well you know, there are still plenty of things that will unite us beyond just the European question. A society in which people can aspire to do well, a society where through selection in education we can narrow some of the class gaps, there are lots of things that unite UKIP and I actually think that with Mr. Corbyn as Labour leader there is an even bigger potential marketplace for us there.

To be fair, Farage did not deflect the question, or seek to answer it with some pre-rehearsed talking point. So kudos for that. But his responses did little to change my overall impression of the conference – that UKIP (or at least the party leadership) are so fixated on achieving their long-cherished goal of British secession from the EU that they are willing to let some of the divisions and inherent contradictions within the party go unaddressed for the time being.

From my summary in Day 1 of my UKIP Conference live blog:

There is definitely a degree of Matthew 6:34 to this particular conference (“Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof”). And one can understand the strong desire to strive onward to the long-cherished goal of gaining independence from the EU. But I can’t help wondering if UKIP might not pay a price in 2017 or beyond for failing to pay enough heed to the type of party they want to be – and the type of supporters they want – by the time of the next general election.

Time will tell whether this strategy is correct.

Interestingly, both Nigel Farage and Douglas Carswell mentioned the newly-elected Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, quite unprompted by me. UKIP clearly sees massive potential to win over even more ex-Labour voters, people who may never vote Tory in a million years but who are concerned and repulsed by Labour’s leftward march under Corbyn.

UKIP of course is already the runner-up in well over 100 constituencies, many of them Labour seats in the Midlands and the North. If UKIP are able to stay organised and maintain message discipline – by no means guaranteed – then Labour may well have something to fear on this count.

My live blog from Day 1 of the UKIP 2015 party conference is here.

My live blog from Day 2 of the UKIP 2015 party conference is here.

Nigel Farage - UKIP Conference 2015 - Silhouette - 3

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Interview With Douglas Carswell

Douglas Carswell on UKIP’s momentum after a bittersweet 2015 general election result, and the long term prospects for the party beyond the EU referendum

While covering last month’s UKIP party conference in Doncaster, I caught up with Douglas Carswell, UKIP’s sole MP at present, as he roamed the conference venue chatting with delegates and posing for the inevitable selfies.

I was interested to hear the MP for Clacton’s thoughts on how UKIP might regain its momentum after a stratospheric rise in support was kept unfairly in check by the UK’s first-past-the-post electoral system, as well as what future the party might have following the referendum, once Britain has either voted to leave the European Union or repudiated UKIP’s entire world view by voting to remain.

Here is a transcript of my interview with Douglas Carswell:

QUESTION: What would constitute a win for UKIP conference this year? Obviously it’s a bit lower-key this year than last year when you were able to announce the defection of Mark Reckless, so what’s the ultimate goal this year?

DOUGLAS CARSWELL: Well actually, the interesting thing is everyone said it was going to be quite low key. I’ve been here for ten minutes and it’s been pretty full on, there’s a real buzz. I think there’s a feeling of real excitement. We’re going to have this referendum. We’ve been campaigning for it for twenty years, and it’s happening, and we can win, but we can only win if we work together and I think that is beginning to happen and it’s incredibly exciting, it’s wonderful to be here.

QUESTION: So looking beyond the referendum, in five years at the next post-election conference the referendum will have happened, we might have another government. What does UKIP need to do to stay relevant in that time, other than the Brexit referendum?

DOUGLAS CARSWELL: There are a whole range of policy areas from forced adoption to a lack of bank reform to the great energy cartel – there are a whole range of policy issues that we need to address, and we are addressing. And we’re making it clear that Comrade Corbyn’s Labour Party doesn’t offer any credible change, the Conservative’s won’t change because they are part of the cartel, UKIP stands for change. These are a whole range of areas besides the Europe question, but you know we were founded twenty-something years ago to ensure that Britain left the European Union. Let’s rise to the occasion and win that referendum.

QUESTION: And finally Douglas, UKIP is an interesting coalition of different voters at the moment. You’ve got disaffected Labour voters, you’ve got right wingers and libertarians and others. How do you keep that coalition together once the unifying factor of an EU referendum is passed?

DOUGLAS CARSWELL: It’s actually surprisingly easy. If you look at some data that appeared in the New Statesman recently, it showed very clearly that the Labour voters that Jeremy Corbyn needs to connect with actually have a view on the free market that is far more closely aligned to the unapologetically free market views of UKIP. We are in a much better position to appeal to ordinary working class people in this country who will never vote Conservative but who realise that Jeremy Corbyn’s welfare-ism, open borders policies and deficit denial are not credible. UKIP can come up as a credible voice for change, as a party that will break open the political cartel and tackle the corporatist economic injustices that are so prevalent in the country today. But the way to do that is not to offer reheated socialism – not Ed Miliband Mark Two. The way to do that is to be unapologetically free market.

You’re filming this from an iPhone. An iPhone that is the collective endeavour of tens of thousands of people across the planet. We need to be a party that believes in the market, in free trade, in taking the best and the brightest from around the world in order to raise living standards. And that is something that I think people right across the political spectrum recognise as credible.

My live blog from Day 1 of the UKIP 2015 party conference is here.

My live blog from Day 2 of the UKIP 2015 party conference is here.

Douglas Carswell - UKIP Party Conference 2015

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