There were one or two guests who seemed keen to make an early check out.
Whatever the pleasures of a night at the Thurrock Hotel may be – most rooms come with a prime view of the M25 – a breakfast-time invasion of Ukip supporters and the media doesn’t appear to be one of them. Not even an open bar proved tempting enough for them to stay.
Upstairs the minders were out in force, earpieces flashing green; this was Nigel Farage’s biggest day out since his impromptu appearance at a gentleman’s dancing club on Monday night and everything had to run to schedule. The previous Ukip election manifesto launch in 2010 had fallen to pieces within minutes of its starting, with Farage himself admitting that much of the document was drivel, and the Ukip leader was keen to put all that behind him.
“We have a piece of paper in our hand,” Nigel started, waving the Ukip manifesto. It wasn’t quite Neville Chamberlain but perhaps that was just as well. “We are the party who wants our country back,” he continued. “We aren’t against immigrants. We are just against the wrong kind of immigrants. We don’t want foreign criminals. And we don’t want benefit scroungers. No one should be able to claim benefits unless they have paid their taxes for five years and have no criminal convictions.”
This last bit may prove more of a problem for Ukip than anyone expected, for Farage was about to let slip his biggest bombshell. “Unlike all the other political parties, all our policies have been independently scrutinised and costed.” Much to everyone in his own party’s astonishment, Ukip had just become the gold standard of fiscal responsibility; the benchmark against which every party’s policies should now be judged.
So what was this economic thinktank that had signed off on all Ukip’s pledges? A separate document that Nigel revealed showed it to be the hitherto little-known Centre for Economics and Business Research. Its other notable claims to fame are the fact that its chief executive, Douglas McWilliams, is currently awaiting trial over allegations of assaulting a prostitute. The chief economist is Vicky Pryce, who served eight months in prison in 2013 for perverting the course of justice.
The main ingot in the Ukip gold standard was to leave the EU, Farage insisted. Once we’ve done that, Britain can literally afford anything. Tax cuts for the rich, no money for Scotland, free tax discs for vintage cars, smoking rooms in all pubs and no hospital parking charges even for those who use it to go shopping at Tesco. There was so much money in fact, old people with prostate problems – that’s Nige after a late night – should be given more help and he was going to build a new hospital specially for war veterans. Having criticised the Tories and Labour for their involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan and somewhere called “Alibya”, Nige seemed quite keen to add to our veterans’ casualty lists. Defending the white cliffs could be bloodier than he is letting on.
With the introductions over, Farage handed over to Suzanne Evans, who actually wrote the bits of the manifesto Nigel will get round to reading later. When she’s not being asked tricky questions about blaming immigrants for housing shortages while she owns two or three houses herself, or going back on her pledge to restrict immigration for unskilled farm workers even before the ink was dry, Evans was quite an accomplished performer. So cool in fact, that she kept her coat on throughout despite everyone else in the room gasping for breath.
Evans just wanted people to feel the love. So nice to rabbits she could have been a Green, and so keen on democracy that every two years the people of the UK should be allowed to have a referendum on anything they felt like. Anyone for capital punishment? Evans wanted to concentrate on the happy things. Try to think of the Ukip manifesto launch as a wedding ceremony. One or two took her at her word, and a punch-up was only narrowly avoided when the Telegraph’s Christopher Hope asked why the only black face in the manifesto was on the page about why overseas aid should be cut. Hope was shouted down.
However, like every good wedding, the fights were soon forgotten and Farage was keen that everyone should kiss and make up. Which they did, more or less. Though how long for is another matter.
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