LONDON — Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage said on Friday that the result of the upcoming Stoke by-election will be “fundamental” to the future of the party — putting huge pressure on new leader Paul Nuttall to deliver a result.
Farage, who stepped down as leader last year and now serves as an MEP, was speaking at the UKIP spring conference in Bolton.
The prominent Brexiteer urged party members to do all they can to help his successor Paul Nuttall to take Stoke-on-Trent Central from Labour on Thursday as failure to do so could have huge ramifications for UKIP’s future.
“I don’t think anybody for one moment can underplay just how important and absolutely fundamental that by-election is for the futures of both the Labour Party and indeed UKIP,” Farage said.
“It matters and it matters hugely. I know that Paul has had a very difficult week. Fighting by-elections is not much fun — it’s a rough old game. I do believe that we are going to win this by-election.”
Nuttall had up until recently been favourite to win the seat and become UKIP’s second MP in Parliament. However, false claims that he lost personal friends at the Hillsborough disaster have dealt a boot to the stomach of his campaign, with Labour’s Gareth Snell now favourite to win in a seat that has been Labour-controlled since the 1950s.
Farage went on to describe 2016 as a year of “political revolution” and said UKIP was the force that started Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, and the rise of populist politicians across western Europe. He said:
“2016 is one of those years that children will read about in history books. It was a year of political revolution in the UK. Huge political revolution in America and in December we saw the Italians get rid of their PM.
“The most remarkable thing about is it was all started by UKIP.
“There was some that think the revolution was nothing more than a blip and we’ll all come back to our collective senses in the western world. I have to tell you I am now absolutely certain that the political revolution of 2016 was just the beginning of something much bigger that’s going to happen across the entire western world.
“What people care about is national identity and their community. People in this country and across the west are now beginning to see immigration as a far bigger issue than they even saw it in the referendum campaign.
“I don’t know if 2017 is the year we see dramatic governmental changes in Europe or not but believe me radical change is coming and it’s coming in the course of the next few years.”
Farage warned the approximate 500 people in attendance that UKIP must not “move to the centre” of British politics and instead remain a radical force. “UKIP is a radical party or it is nothing,” he said.
“There is a very important message for UKIP. A message UKIP needs to think about and act upon. This party went from nothing to being the first party to win a national election to force a referendum and play a very important part in that campaign. UKIP We were prepared to think the unthinkable, to speak the unspeakable.
“We had guts, passion and we weren’t afraid of criticism. That’s why we succeeded.”
“There are too many people in the UKIP who are urging UKIP to become mainstream… UKIP is a radical party or it is nothing. We need to be unafraid and bold in all that we do. We need to be leading the political conversation not trying to sound like the rest.”
Here are some other key quotes from Farage’s speech:
- “Mrs May is saying all the right things. It sounds great doesn’t it. It’s now over seven months since we voted in that referendum and what has happened so far: nothing.”
- “My big worry is this. As Home Secretary, she [May] gave some tremendous speeches at party conferences about how she would bring down immigration. She failed as Home Secretary despite those good words.”
- “We’ve seen the death of the Labour Party in Scotland and I sense that the Labour Party is losing a sense of purpose in England and Wales right now.”
- “Whatever Mr Corbyn’s attributes may be, he isn’t patriotic… He is miles away from working-class Britain and that’s UKIP’s opportunity.”
The UKIP conference continues on Friday, with leader Nuttall scheduled to speak after lunch.
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