UK: Nigel Farage on target to win: Poll puts him nine points ahead of Tory rival
NIGEL FARAGE'S hopes of becoming an MP have been given a massive boost with an opinion poll showing the Ukip leader has a commanding nine-point lead in South Thanet.Research privately commissioned by the anti-Brussels party revealed he has opened up a significant gap ahead of Tory candidate Craig Mackinlay in race to win the Kent seat on May 7.
Figures also show that Mr Farage has met more voters over the past month than his Labour and Tory rivals put together.
Raising a pint of bitter to celebrate St George’s Day in the constituency today, Mr Farage said: “There is a buzz and momentum about the Ukip campaign with two weeks to go.”
He insisted the findings demolish claims that he has been barely visible in the constituency and is heading for defeat.
The poll of over 1,000 voters in South Thanet put Mr Farage on an expected vote share of 39 per cent at the general election.
The Tories were on 30 per net and Labour candidate Will Scobie was lagging behind on 26 per cent.
Polling firm Survation carried out the survey, which was funded by Ukip donor Alan Bown.
The findings contrast starkly with a ComRes poll last month that gave the Tories a one-point lead over Ukip in South Thanet.
It also showed that more than 18 per cent of voters in South Thanet have met Mr Farage over the past month.
The figure compared with 8 per cent who have met the Labour candidate and 7 per cent for the Tory candidate.
And nearly a third (31 per cent) of voters in South Thanet say they have had a knock on the door from Ukip activists over the past month compared with 13 per cent for the Tories and 15 per cent for Labour.
A Ukip source said: “This shows up the lies from the other parties that Nigel is never in the constituency.“Our support has been really galvanised over recent weeks. We have had coachloads of members and supporters coming down to deliver leaflets and knock on doors."
Mr Farage marked St George’s Day by drinking with Army veterans at the Northwood Club in Ramsgate in the constituency.
He said: “We’re nicking a bit of vote from everybody. We’ve clearly hurt Labour more than we’ve hurt anybody else.
“The thing that really strikes me about these figures is the number of non-voters, the people who did not engage in 2010, who have said they are going to vote Ukip. I think that is really exciting.
“Nearly a quarter of our voters didn’t vote in 2010. Some have not voted in 20 years, some have never voted in their entire lives.
“I get criticism every day - they say ‘Nigel’s not here enough, is he?’ You know, I don’t actually do everything in the full glare of cameras, there is something called hard work, knocking on doors and meeting people and I’ve done loads of it.
“The number of voters who say they have actually met me is more than the Labour and Conservative figures combined.
“We have taken a big lead here.
“And this whole narrative here - Ukip’ fading away, it’s not doing any good, it ain’t going to take any seats; actually we take the very opposite view.”
He added: “In the last 72 hours we’ve become very excited about how we are doing in some of our target seats.
“I think we are the party in this campaign now with the optimism - which I think Mr Cameron appears to be lacking ever so slightly - and the energy and we are pretty bullish with two weeks ago.
“I’ve said all along we are confident but not complacent, but I now feel much more confident.
“If you give me evens, I’ll have ten grand with you!
“The one dilemma for Ukip is the very large number of people who are not in the habit of voting. Making sure they actually turn up, that’s our challenge for us in the next couple of weeks.”
He also attacked the “political class” for “sneering” at St George’s Day and England flags.
After stepping behind the social club bar to pull himself a pint of John Smith’s, the Ukip leader said: “St George’s Day, we shouldn’t be ashamed of that.
“St George’s Day is something our political classes look down upon, they sneer at it.
“I think we should be proud to be English. We should not be ashamed of the St George’s Flag, we should not be ashamed of St George’s Day, we should make it a national holiday.”
He accused other parties of “appeasing” the “terror of Scottish nationalists.”
“We’ve just about had enough of that. We want a fair deal for the English.”
Earlier, Ukip held a press conference in London to highlight its plan - revealed last month by the Daily Express - for a new Bank Holiday in England to mark St George’s Day - April 23 - with another in Wales for its March 1 St David’s Day, to mirror Scotland’s and Ireland’s widely celebrate St Andrew’s and St Patrick’s Days.
Ukip culture spokesman Peter Whittle said St George’s Day would be an “inclusive opportunity” for people in England to celebrate their common values.
“A country is not just its economy and its identity cannot just be read on a balance sheet. We believe in our hearts and our minds that this is a great country to be proud of and part of,” said Mr Whittle.“But for too long I think we have lived with a political and cultural establishment which has shown a sort of disdain for England and doubted Britain as a whole and has discouraged pride in it.”
Because of a creeping “embarrassment about our past and lack of concern for our history”, many young people knew little about their country and patriotism was often ignored.
“We have a society which seems to live in a state of cultural cringe,” he said.
“Many people feel slightly worried or concerned that if they seem to have pride in the country they are immediately going to be cast as racist or bigots, which is completely and utterly untrue.
“We think such cultural self-loathing is destructive. Benign patriotism is a force for good, a force for for unity.”
Ukip campaign director and economy spokesman Patrick O’Flynn said that “Englishness” for him meant “living in a country that is open, fair, decent and democratic”, with a sense of “social solidarity, of neighbourhood”.
He joked that Turkish-born St George might well have been welcomed to Britain under Ukip’s immigration control policy, because of his dragon-slaying skills.
Mr O’Flynn rejected claims by “the political left” that St George’s birthplace made his national day “irrelevant or illegitimate or ridiculous.
“I completely disagree. I’m not particularly hung up on where St George came from. I’m more interested in what St George’s Day can represent,” he said.
Asked if the Roman soldier would have been welcomed by a 3rd-Century Ukip as a “skilled migrant”, Mr O’Flynn quipped: “Well, I guess dragon-slaying is a skill but whether it is one that’s in short supply for the needs of the British economy, we will leave to our Migration Commission.”
Separately, as St George’s flag flew over Downing Street, David Cameron posted a video message urging people to “celebrate all that makes England great, be proud of our country’s great past and confident about our future”. express