Page last updated at 00:04 GMT, Saturday, 6 September 2008 01:04 UK

UKIP aims for Euro election goal

By Tim Iredale
BBC News in Bournemouth

Nigel Farage
UKIP's leader says the party should be more positive about Europe

In a week when many people dragged themselves back to work after the holidays, those long mid-summer days may seem like a distant memory.

But on a rain-lashed promenade in Bournemouth, delegates at the UK Independence Party conference are thinking about June.

Next June to be precise, when the 2009 European elections will be held. "It'll be our cup final again," one MEP said excitedly.

The high-water mark in the short history of the UKIP came at the last Euro-elections in 2004.

UKIP secured more than 16% of the national vote - more than the Liberal Democrats - giving them 12 MEPs in the European Parliament.

Since then, UKIP has made little impact in electoral terms.

It has picked up a handful of district councillors and secured its first MP at Westminster- albeit without a ballot box being dusted down. Castle Point's Bob Spink defected from the Tories earlier this year.

Broaden appeal

For a party that's been dubbed the "Dad's Army" of British politics, there is no denying the delegates here are generally older and greyer than the type of people who regularly make the trip to the Dorset coast for the Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem conferences.

But even UKIP is keen to prove it has youth appeal. It has just appointed a 31-year-old chairman.

Some UKIP supporters want to broaden the party's appeal beyond their traditional anti-EU stance.

One conference motion calls even suggests it should be rebranded as the "Common Sense Party" to appeal to people who don't normally bother to vote.

But others concede it is the party's scepticism over Britain's political links with our European neighbours that is its unique selling point.

"Let's make the Euro elections the referendum the voters never had," declared party leader Nigel Farage in his speech to the conference.

This was a clear reference to UKIP's belief that if the British people had their say on the Lisbon Treaty, they would follow the Irish example and say "Thanks, but no thanks."

Yes, the build up to Euro 2009 has begun. It could still be UKIP's cup final, providing there aren't too many own goals in Bournemouth.

UKIP must change message - Farage
05 Sep 08 |  UK Politics

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