9:00am Wednesday 29th January 2014
By Gina Bebbington
HUNDREDS of people packed into a Northwich hall on Friday to hear a controversial political leader speak out.
Nigel Farage, from the UK Independence Party (UKIP), welcomed around 300 people who came to the meeting, including those who he suspected had ‘come along to absolutely make sure they absolutely do hate me’.
During his speech, at Winnington Park Recreation Club, he was quick to launch into UKIP’s much-publicised opinions on Europe and immigration.
He tried to defend the party’s stance on immigration and argued that he and UKIP were not anti-Europe or anti-Europeans.
“If I was a young man from Bucharest I would come to England,” he said.
“In three months I would qualify for child benefit for the kids, despite them never having left Romania and it would be more than I could earn in a low paid job in Bucharest.
“It’s the gutless political establishment in this country that allowed this situation to escalate.
“Youth unemployment has doubled since 2004 and skilled and semi-skilled workers have seen wage compression so that people are taking home less than they were 10 years ago.
“I blame Westminster, not anyone of foreign extraction.”
Farage blamed immigration for the increase in housing development being felt by mid Cheshire.
“One of the consequences of mass open door immigration has been mass population rise, the likes of which we haven’t seen on these islands,” he said.
“This has put enormous pressure on England’s green and pleasant land.”
He said that UKIP would scrap climate change targets to stop the UK committing ‘industrial hari-kari’ by using more expensive green energy while global manufacturing competitors like India and China were building cheaper coal-fired power stations.
Farage was also questioned on his stance on HS2, which he described as ‘a project of great political vanity and folly’ and argued that the entire rail network could be upgraded for a third of the cost.
He said: “We’re not afraid to say what we think and we’ve got a sense of humour.
“Yes, there may be the odd rough edges to UKIP but isn’t that better than the highly polished machine that doesn’t say or do anything?”
“It’s a key marginal,” he said.
“One of the things we’ve learned over the last little bit of time is that UKIP does best in marginals.
“There’s a reason for that and that reason is that we draw our votes from across the spectrum – Tory, Lib Dem, old Labour and one in five from non-voters – so a marginal is perfect for us.”
The Guardian asked him why people in Northwich should be interested in Europe.
He said: “Europe is in their houses, it’s climbing up the walls.
“I would be appealing to the business community here, it’s a fairly industrialised part of the world, and I would be making points about global trade, health and safety and the cost of green taxes.
“To the lumpen mass it’s about the effects of immigration on the labour market.”
He added: “We’re not saying people from eastern Europe are bad people, we’re saying that we have to put our own interests first.
“We can’t control immigration if we’re part of the European Union and its about the effects on people here.”
The Guardian asked him how UKIP could appeal to eastern European votes in Northwich, which has a historic Polish community.
He said: “They won’t be the easiest votes to get necessarily.
“But we’re letting too many people in and many of them will agree with that.”
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