Nigel Farage is to attempt to put David Cameron under pressure on the issue of immigration ahead of the television debates as he unveils Ukip’s first billboard poster in Dover on Tuesday.
He will accuse the prime minister of intentionally deceiving the public over the Conservative promise of reducing immigration to the tens of thousands, saying it is not feasible while the UK is part of the European Union.
A Ukip spokesman said: “At this election, David Cameron’s wilful deception towards the public should not go unnoticed. In fact, after today, he will find it very difficult to ignore the centre point of both Ukip’s campaign and the message that Ukip is hearing most on the doorsteps. He said in 2010 that we should kick him out if he failed on core issues. OK – let’s do it.”
It comes on the second day of the general election campaign. Significant events in the campaign so far include:
• The Conservatives were forced to defend their claim that working families face an average £3,000 tax rise under Labour on Monday after the leading economic thinkthank the Institute for Fiscal Studies description the figure as “unhelpful and of little value”. On Tuesday Cameron is claiming to be the party of employment promising 2m more jobs in the next parliament.
• Ed Miliband warned that threatening to leave the EU would make reforming it less achievable as he launched Labour’s official election campaign. But aides were forced to talk down a row over whether companies named in a Labour advert supporting UK membership of the EU, published in the Financial Times, had been consulted.
• Nick Clegg is pledging £2bn more to tackle mental illness.
On Monday Farage launched the party’s five core election pledges, brushing off suggestions that his party is losing momentum. Farage chose to unveil his priorities in the middle of a Westminster street, promising to leave the EU, exert greater control over the UK’s borders, give an extra £3bn to the NHS, cut foreign aid, and remove tax for those on the minimum wage.
Surrounded by cameras and reporters, Farage was flanked by three senior party officials, his MP Mark Reckless, and two supporters from ethnic minority backgrounds in front of a lorry bearing a billboard with a giant image of his face. Douglas Carswell, the Ukip MP for Clacton who defected from the Tories, was absent, as he was campaigning in his constituency.
“This pledge card shows you pretty clearly what Ukip is for,” said Farage. “We’ve got a completely distinctive plan from the other political parties. We are the only party saying Britain should have a trade relationship with Europe but not membership of the EU.” Although the pledge card referred simply to “controlling our borders”, Farage said Ukip was the only party to be “offering a solution to the immigration crisis” and claimed it wanted to talk about the issue in a constructive way.
Questioned on the NHS pledge, Farage admitted that it would not be possible to allocate an extra £3bn immediately because it would be paid for out of the UK’s contribution to the EU and it would take time to leave the bloc.
The latest polls suggest Ukip’s vote is being squeezed as the campaign gets under way. The most recent numbers from the Tory peer Lord Ashcroft had Ukip on 10% – its lowest since May – while a ComRes poll for the Daily Mail put Ukip on 12% and ICM put support at 13%. A YouGov poll for the Sunday Times had the party on 16%.
Farage said the campaign had “only been going about five hours, so I wouldn’t say we’ve lost momentum”. But he acknowledged that Ukip would find it “very hard” to win seats under the first-past-the-post system and said his own electoral battle to gain South Thanet would be a “hell of a fight”. Once again, he refused to put a figure on the number of seats he believed Ukip would win, but he said it could be more than 10. Analysts are predicting that Ukip is more likely to win between four and six seats.
Farage said he had talked to some Conservatives informally about working with them to secure an early EU referendum in the next parliament and some were keen, while others were “milky”.
Challenged about whether the campaign, featuring his own face prominently, shows Ukip as too much of a one-man band, Farage said: “Yes, it is my face on the pledge card – I am the leader of the party. All this one-man band business … it’s better than a no-man band.”
The Ukip leader said he had done no preparation ahead of Thursday’s seven-way election debates, but he was hoping for a breakthrough moment as much as the other leaders.
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