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Tuesday, July 13, 1999 Published at 13:30 GMT 14:30 UK

UK Politics

What next for the UKIP?

The UKIP plans to expose incompetence in the European Parliament

By BBC News Online's Matthew Grant

They are happy to be called fanatics. But they will object if they are dubbed right wing. They are by their own admission a volunteer army. Yet, they can claim to be England's fourth political party.

[ image:  ]
The UK Independence Party shocked some on 10 June by winning three seats in the European Parliament. Ironically, their first electoral success took them to the institution they were set up to oppose.

It equally poses the question: What next? To the considerable relief of the Tories, the UKIP is not contesting this month's Eddisbury by-election. But it does plan to field a candidate for London's mayor and turn out in force at the next general election.

In the European election, the party campaigned solely on the policy of withdrawing from the European Union. It appeared to strike a nerve with a substantial minority of the small number of people who bothered to vote.

UKIP chairman and Euro-MP Nigel Farage says: "When we were asked about other issues we simply said, Look unless we sort out this question, unless we sort out who's going to make these decisions for Britain, then all we've got left even now is education and health - all the other big issues are effectively decided from Europe."

[ image: Nigel Farrage:
Nigel Farrage: "Core of UKIP message must be that we've got to get back to running our own country"
So, what would the party's policies be on education and health in the run-up to the next general election?

"Very glibly I would say to you that when we start saving the 1m we pay an hour to Brussels as a contribution fee then we would have a lot more money to spend on health and education."

Farage stresses the party produced a full manifesto when it fielded 196 candidates in 1997, but he says "90% of the UKIP message must be that we've got to get back to running our own country and then we can talk about the other issues".

Fanatics - and proud

This single-mindedness led some, including Conservative leader William Hague, to brand them "fanatics" during the Euro poll contest. This is not a charge Farage would deny.

He is aggrieved, however, at the perception of his party as a bunch of right-wing businessmen in pin stripes obsessed with railing at foreigners. The UKIP has no place on the right-left political axis, he insists, and simply wants a common market in Europe rather than a single currency and a parliament.

"We took more votes on 10 June from people who had previously voted Liberal Democrat and Labour than we did from the Conservative Party," Farage says. "We are certainly not a splinter from the Conservative Party."

[ image: The anti-euro message attracts people from across political divides]
The anti-euro message attracts people from across political divides
To ram home the point is Kim Rose - a jeweller currently involved in legal action to stop the chancellor selling off the UK's gold reserve - who switched to the party from Arthur Scargill's Socialist Labour Party.

He too stood in the European election and, although he failed to make it to Strasbourg, he plans to remain in the UKIP.

"It's a broad church of people," Rose says. "My view on domestic policy hasn't changed. However, the UKIP is a young party. I'm hoping to lead and set an example.

"I believe that there should be a manifesto drawn up for the people, by the people - this could really by a true people's party."

Rose admits he would disagree on many issues with UKIP leader Michael Holmes, who is one of its Euro-MPs and like the others a businessman. But the leader's language chimes with his socialist ally.

"This is a people's rebellion," Holmes says. "We were leafleting half a million homes a week. That's what got us elected with 700,000 votes. Some of the media absolutely slurried us and the Tories were paranoid about us."

No reconciliation is on the cards between the UKIP and the Tories. Holmes attempted to challenge Hague outside the launch of the Eurosceptic Congress for Democracy but says the Tory leader rushed off and refused to talk to him.

The UKIP goes to Strasbourg

The immediate next step for the UKIP is to go to the European Parliament, where it is virtually certain to join the Group of Independents for a Europe of Nations.

[ image: Michael Holmes: Big plans set for September kick off]
Michael Holmes: Big plans set for September kick off
From Strasbourg and Brussels, the party hopes to educate the British public about what happens in the parliament, with the intention of increasing the number of people supporting a complete withdrawal.

Holmes claims the very arrival of the UKIP at the European Parliament will amount to a mini-revolution threatening the actual structure of the institution.

"The three of us who are going will be backed with considerable funding and considerable structure are going to be like the Three Musketeers. We've likened ourselves to the dam busters. We've hit the dam and we've made a crack.

"We have very definite priorities but they're not for public consumption at the moment. We think we're in a pivotal position to keep telling the British media what the hell is going on there. We will be fully active from September."

Farage says he and his colleagues will take the parliament seriously and turn up to vote, although he adds they are likely to vote No more than Yes and also abstain with frequency.

"For example, I'm told that on 21 July - the second day of this particular session - that I'm going to be asked to vote on up to 500 motions in a morning with my electronic voting pad. It seems to me that that's just impossible.

"If we bring that sort of information back to this country, expose it through the media, people will start to say, Hey, we don't like the sound of this."

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