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The laughing has stopped as UKIP support grows

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: May 04, 2014

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FRUITCAKES, loonies and closet racists they were once famously labelled by David Cameron.

But nobody Westminster is laughing at UKIP anymore and now the party is seeking to make its mark in Burton.

Like them or not, they are the party that is on everyone’s lips and their rise is causing shockwaves along the corridors of power within Britain’s three ‘main’ parties.

UKIP’s local candidates hit the campaign trail in Burton last week in the run up to this month’s European elections, where much will be learnt about where the party lies and what chance it stands of getting MPs into Westminster in 2015.

There may have only been around 30 people who turned out for the rally at Burton Town Hall, but the raucous reaction that met the booming rhetoric was telling - this party will get votes in Burton.

Whether they get enough to mount a serious challenge towards Burton’s seat in Parliament is another.

‘We have seen it before’, politicians have argued, labelling the party as just another all talk and no substance flash in the pan party.

In what some saw as an attempt to stem the growing UKIP tide, Prime Minister David Cameron suggested leader Nigel Farage was a ‘chicken’ for deciding not to stand in the by-election in Newark, Nottinghamshire, this week.

Even Mr Farage admitted to stand and lose would have been damaging at a time when everyone is starting to sit up and take notice.

But European elections candidate for the West Midlands Bill Etheridge’s insistence that people are growing tired with the Labour-Conservative power exchange seemed to hold weight among members of the audience.

Many appear to have bought into the ‘tell-it-like-it-is, we-are-just-like-you’ foundations UKIP prides itself on, despite questions from elsewhere over whether they could deliver on their promises.

But there is a growing sense among some frustrated voters that this party can give them what they want, however realistic that notion is.

This has not gone unnoticed by UKIP’s leaders, with candidates to stand in every ward in Burton next year. There was even a brazen invite to from Burton parliamentary candidate Mike Green to councillors from other parties to jump aboard the UKIP bandwagon.

Barry Martin, from Horninglow, is certainly convinced.

He said: “I’m right behind them. It’s fresh, people actually listening to the public. They are going to get seats in the European elections and they will get seats in Westminster.”

Winshill resident Michael Carpenter said: “I’m certainly considering it (voting UKIP). It’s not so much about immigration, it’s about uncontrolled immigration. Queen’s Hospital wouldn’t survive without foreign doctors, they are essential, but is about the unskilled and uncontrolled who are keeping young people out of work.

“Labour and the Lib Dems are worried about this party. I’ve voted for both and regretted it.”

John Lowdon, from Horninglow, a former member of the Labour Party, has been attracted by the promise of a referendum on Britain’s future in the EU.

He said: “A lot of people are going to vote for UKIP. They have got the answers to the questions. We live in a democracy, give us a vote on Europe.”

UKIP’s local leaders weren’t just preaching to the converted. Two women from Stapenhill had made the trip to see what the fuss about.

They said they would consider voting for UKIP, but still had a lot of questions.

The leader of East Staffordshire Borough Council, Labour’s Julian Mott, said the fact more people were turning to UKIP was impossible to ignore.

He said: “It is a protest vote. People voting for UKIP support the fact they want to get out of Europe, policies unknown to the public.

“There is a lesson there for the main parties. People are turning off the traditional parties, the number of people turning out to vote has fallen. The main parties need to do more to reconnect with voters.”

While Councillor Mott envisages progress in Europe, he does not see UKIP as a serious contender for Burton’s seat in Parliament.

He said: “The European elections are coming up and that’s just the sort of thing UKIP like. Proportional representation helps them get votes they wouldn’t otherwise get. It’s more difficult in the general election. Never say never, but I think’s it’s unlikely they will be in the position to win the seat.”

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