Page last updated at 13:13 GMT, Tuesday, 13 April 2010 14:13 UK

UK Independence Party aim for Commons breakthrough

By Peter Hunt
Political correspondent, BBC News

Nigel Farage and Lord Pearson of UKIP

Withdrawal from Europe is UKIP's founding principle and raison d'etre. But at this election they do not want to be seen as an EU-obsessed one-trick pony.

So in a cramped room to launch their manifesto, other policies tripped off the tongues of the party's big beasts.

These include cutting government spending by £50bn next year; moving two million jobs out of the public sector into the private sector; a flat rate of tax; a five-year freeze on immigrants settling here; and an increase in spending on defence 40%.

UKIP also wants to introduce a ban on the wearing of the burka in public buildings and other places like banks and shopping centres.

At his news conference, the party leader, Lord Pearson, confessed he had been blissfully unaware that his own manifesto contained a pledge to ban the burka in certain private buildings. The party accepts it is an "aspiration" which is surrounded by practical difficulties.

'Country before party'

But Europe remains their core message.

These individuals have not asked for it, but they are going to get UKIP help

To achieve their goal of an amicable parting of the ways, UKIP are prepared to embrace tactical voting in certain areas - putting country before party, as they put it.

They have identified six Conservative candidates and one Labour candidate who are committed Eurosceptics.

These individuals have not asked for it, but they are going to get UKIP help. The party will tell their supporters in these constituencies to vote for their would-be opponents.

Lord Pearson accepts this is a risky strategy which may give more seats to the Tories. He says his goal is a hung Parliament - his hope is that whoever forms the next government will only be able to do so if they promise a referendum on the EU.

Such a dream will only have any prospect of becoming a reality if UKIP can secure seats and influence in the Commons.

They have no MPs. They are pursuing an elusive breakthrough, translating success in the European elections - they have 12 MEPs and last time came second ahead of Labour - into tangible results next month.

Nigel Farage, one of the UKIP candidates seeking parliamentary power, dismissed the suggestion they had no chance in a first-past-the-post General Election. As he put it, "Don't completely write us off".

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