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Last Updated: Saturday, 7 October 2006, 23:29 GMT 00:29 UK
UKIP bids to shed single issue tag
By Robin Chrystal
BBC News, Telford, Shropshire

UKIP leader Nigel Farage
UKIP's new leader had a tough message for delegates

When the brass band struck up with Land of Hope and Glory there was no doubt which conference we were at - that of the UK Independence Party.

Backs were a little stiffer, smiles fixed and as the music reached its crescendo there was applause and throaty cheers - and this was only in the foyer outside the main conference hall.

In the pub the night before, everyone seemed to know that UKIP were in town but most weren't quite sure what they stood for - something about not liking Europe?

And that's UKIP's problem.

They are still very much a single issue party.

Yes, they did well in the European elections in 2004, gaining 16% of the vote and 12 Euro MPs.

But since then?

Not a lot. Only eight councillors in all and no representation in the Scottish Parliament or the Welsh assembly.

Westminster is a far off dream.

Tough message

New leader Nigel Farage knows it only too well which is why he outlined new policies at the conference designed to prove that UKIP isn't just a protest group.

Tax is at the heart of it. He proposes a flat rate income tax of 33% with thousands of low earners taken out of tax altogether.

Best of all they liked it when their leader attacked the Conservative leader David Cameron and Europe in the same sentence.

Inheritance tax would be abolished altogether. While superficially attractive, analysts are already warning government borrowing will have to rise considerably to pay for the changes and unless there's substantial economic growth, the sums look decidedly dodgy.

And Nigel Farage had a pretty tough message for the predominately ageing audience in the conference hall.

Too often in the past the party had fielded "paper candidates" at elections. UKIP wasn't credible enough, professional enough or disciplined enough.

But that's not what got them going.

What they wanted - and what their party leader gave them - were plenty of attacks on the European Union and all its deadly works.

Europe where 70% of our laws were made, Europe which stopped us imposing border controls on immigrants.

Impromptu performance

But best of all they liked it when their leader attacked the Conservative leader David Cameron and Europe in the same sentence.

"David Cameron says he doesn't want to go banging on about Europe, well I tell you we will be banging on about Europe!" (Rip roaring cheers).

To see the party leader off the stage they played Jerusalem.

It again swelled the breasts of the UKIPers and as the music died away an impromptu baritone voice in the audience sung out William Blake's words.

More applause.

They may be low in the polls, but this lot certainly know how to enjoy themselves.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Nigel Farage addresses his party



SEE ALSO
UKIP 'voice of British majority'
07 Oct 06 |  UK Politics
Farage elected new UKIP leader
12 Sep 06 |  UK Politics
UKIP needs to broaden appeal
12 Sep 06 |  UK Politics
UKIP hungry for change
18 Aug 06 |  UK Politics
Profile: UK Independence Party
28 Jul 06 |  UK Politics

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