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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 October 2006, 11:11 GMT 12:11 UK
West Midlands: On the Coleshill trail
Nick Watson
Nick Watson
The Politics Show
West Midlands

The Coleshill investigation goes on...

Coleshill Manor, in the Warwickshire countryside, is an unlikely location for political controversy and intrigue, but that is exactly what it has become.

The 19th Century country house is now the centre for the Conservative Party's campaign activities and is used as a call centre to target marginal seats which the Tories hope to pick up.

Recently, it has been the subject of questions about exactly how it is funded and whether the costs are counted as part of the Tories campaign costs.

Even party leader, David Cameron, is not sure what is going on saying, in a BBC interview, that the centre "is part of the party".

But, he was later contradicted by former leader William Hague who was more circumspect in his description of it as "part of the Conservative family".

In or out of the party?

The Electoral Commission has announced that it is to hold an inquiry into exactly how the centre is funded, including the 1m it receives from the Midlands Industrial Council and it has written to the party seeking more information.

The inquiry has, not surprisingly, been welcomed by the Chair of the Labour Party Hazel Blears, who says it needs to be established if the Coleshill Manor call centre is part of the party or an independent organisation.

"You can't be in a position where you are basically buying these seats. The public want there to be a level playing field about political funding and quite rightly," she said.

Our reporter Julie Peacock has been out to Coleshill and been given exclusive access - for the first time TV cameras have been allowed in to film at the centre.

Also in the programme...

Nigel Farage
Nigel Farage is hoping to capitalise on 'a political vacuum'

The UK Independence Party arrive in the Midlands for their annual conference with tax cuts and immigration top of the list of concerns for new party leader Nigel Farage.

UKIP have chosen the Telford International Centre in Shropshire as the venue for this weekend's two-day annual get-together, at which, they are determined to prove they are much more than a single issue party.

Looking to broaden their appeal, they are highlighting policies other than withdrawl from the EU like support for selective education, an open commitment to cutting taxes and introducing an Australian-style immigration policy.

On income tax UKIP want to introduce a flat rate of 33% to include National Insurance contributions. They also want to scrap inheritance tax and reduce Capital Gains Tax to 33%.

They are hoping that David Cameron's refusal to commit to tax cuts will mean they can pick up votes from those on the Tory right disenchanted by party's dash for that all important political centre ground.

Mr Farage said: "We are developing into a broad based Party, up and down the country and putting together the policies to support that stature.

"A huge political vacuum is opening up as all the major parties are plunging us toward the same destructive "statist" solutions.

"UKIP represents all Britons who feel pitted against Governments both here and in Europe which erode individual freedoms, consolidates its power and inflicts ever-burdening costs."

Child and dog in Bulgaria
UKIP raise concerns about an inbalance of wealth

Accession worries

And on immigration, the main concern is with a possible influx of immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria when they finally join the Europeam Union.

"Two very poor eastern European countries - Romania and Bulgaria - will join the EU," said Mr Farage recently.

"It is perfectly obvious, that if you have the free movement of peoples between countries with vastly differing levels of wealth, it will lead to a huge migratory flow," he insists.

UKIP has a West Midlands MEP, in Mike Nattrass, but precious little else in the region.

At the last General Election they captured nearly 78,000 - just over 3% of the popular vote.

In electoral terms they remain very much a fringe party, but with a populist agenda and a new leader supporters would prefer to point out that in 2005 in the West Midlands the party finished fourth in terms of popular votes cast and saw its share of the poll increase.

Our Political Editor, Patrick Burns, will be live at the UKIP conference in Telford speaking live to new leader Nigel Farage.

The Politics Show

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Politics from around the UK...

Previous stories...

Tories accused over 'secret cash'
01 Oct 06 |  UK Politics
Farage elected new UKIP leader
12 Sep 06 |  UK Politics
Links to UK political websites
24 May 05 |  UK Politics
West Midlands
11 Sep 05 |  Politics Show

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