Ukip leader Nigel Farage has used a meeting in Eastleigh to announce that he will be going to Downing Street to challenge the Prime Minister to a public debate over the issue of an EU referendum.
Farage had received the phone from Downing St confirming the appointment while on a pre – meeting walkabout of the town’s shopping centre on Thursday.
The high profile MEP later told an audience at the Towns Railway Institute:
“I have today obtained a permission from the police to go to Downing street on Monday morning (July 16) and hand deliver a letter issuing a personal challenge to David Cameron to have a public debate with me over why people in this country cannot have a vote to decide whether we are members of the European Union or not.”
During the same speech the party leader also refused to rule out his standing in an Eastleigh by-election should Chris Huhne be forced to resign.
“Coming to Eastleigh is like coming home” Farage has said of the town where he first started his political career by standing in the 1994 by-election and earlier in the day he appeared relaxed while chatting to shopkeepers in Market Street in an effort to discover how EU regulations impact on their business while also indulging in a bit of early electioneering – Ukip have vowed to stand a candidate in every division in next May’s Hampshire County Council elections.
Butchery manager Sam Smedley told Mr Farage how EU regulations forced him to sell his wares in kilos while his many of his customers prefer their meat served up in pounds and ounces.
“ I’m not just a butcher, I’m a mathematician – I constantly have to do conversions in my head”
Simeon Field, director of Churchill’s Estate Agency thought Energy Efficiency Packs – introduced as a result of an EU directive – had added a extra layer of cost and bureaucracy to moving home.
More controversially, a manager at the greengrocers claimed that sales of Jersey Royal potatoes had plummeted since the EU had introduced a ban on farmers using the traditional application of rotting seaweed as a fertiliser on crops for export
“They just don’t taste the same anymore”
Unfortunately, although it sounds credible, it would appear to be a popular ‘EU myth’.
In fact, far from banning the use of seaweed it seems the EU have actually protected Jersey Royals with ‘Designation of origin status’ i.e. only kidney potatoes grown in this manner on Jersey can be legally described as ‘Jersey Royals’ in the same way that only sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region can be marketed as ‘Champagne’.
If Mr Farage chooses to repeat this story, it will be interesting to see whether or not a member of the cabinet plagiarises it for their party conference speech.
The Ukip leader also stopped at the Costa café where he eschewed a frothy continental latte for a pot of Twinning’s Tea – production of which has recently been switched from Hampshire to Poland thanks to EU subsidies.
Later that day Mr Farage gave an entertaining speech delivered without the aid of notes or a microphone and answered questions from the audience on a wide range of topics including defence, law and order and immigration .
He told his audience that Euroscepticism had moved from a minority view to the mainstream to the extent that Ukip were now consistently polling higher than the Lib Dems.
Mr Farage said the party planned to stand a record number of candidates in next year’s local elections and forecast Ukip would win the 2014 Euro elections to become the biggest UK party in the European Parliament, triggering an “earthquake in Westminster” and with a General Election due the following year; “Who knows what might happen?”
Mr Farage also predicted a swift and potentially violent end for the Eurozone as the currency collapsed and more countries were forced into austerity.
Speaking about Chris Huhne’s current predicament – the Town’s MP is facing a trial for perverting the course of justice – Mr Farage said:
“I have absolutely no idea what is going to happen with Chris Huhne’s case but if Chris is found not to have told the truth then it is clear that his position as MP for this town will be untenable.
“So we face the prospect perhaps of an Eastleigh by-election – it could happen in October or November this year, perhaps spring next year but be assured if and when there is an election we will give it everything we have got”
Given that he had stopped short of vowing to re-contest the seat he first stood for 18 years ago, after the meeting I asked Mr Farage if he had ruled himself out.
“I didn’t say that” replied Mr Farage with a twinkle in his eye.
See also: Farage cat tale snares May
Photos: © Eastleigh News