A PROVOCATIVE image of the Union flag in flames is the first in a series of adverts funded by millionaire Yorkshire businessman Paul Sykes to be launched as the UK Independence Party starts its European election campaign.
Ukip leader Nigel Farage will be in Sheffield tomorrow (April 22) to unveil one of the campaign posters, part of a series of adverts paid for by a £1.5m donation by Mr Sykes.
The first advert features a Union flag with the centre burning away to reveal the European Union standard underneath. It urges voters to ‘take your country back’ with a vote for Ukip.
And while the content of the advert will itself provoke a debate, it is the scale and prominence of the wider campaign which is likely to pose the biggest challenge to the other parties who must weigh up how much of their limited funds they want to spend in the coming weeks with a General Election less than a year away.
The choice of Sheffield to launch the campaign will be seen as an attempt to remind voters of the debates between Mr Farage and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, one of the city’s MPs, which polls suggest were won by the Ukip leader.
Mr Sykes, best known for his investments in Meadowhall and the redevelopment of Leeds’s Victoria Quarter, told The Yorkshire Post he believed a substantial Ukip vote on May 22 could force the other parties to support the holding of a referendum on the UK’s membership of European Union as early as next year.
“The poster represents the flag being eroded and something else taking its place. It may jump off the page at you but it is the truth of what is happening.
“It is time to spell it out really. It makes it very very clear we are no longer self-governing, we don’t make our laws or control our borders. What is Parliament for?”
Mr Sykes, originally from Barnsley and now living in North Yorkshire, said Mr Clegg had made a mistake by taking part in debates with Mr Farage which had “opened up a lot more interest in Ukip”.
He was also dismissive of David Cameron’s promise of a referendum after the next General Election.
“Surely the British public don’t want to hang about until 2017 waiting for the Prime Minister who has made it absolutely crystal clear he wants to stay in the EU?” he said.
Branding May 22, the day of the European elections, an EU referendum “in all but name”, Mr Sykes added: “If this was something chosen by the general public, if they had voted for it in the first place, it wouldn’t suit me but I would move on.
“But I am staying around to give the public a chance to make their minds up and get back to self-governing and getting our borders back.”
Ukip won one of Yorkshire’s six seats in the European Parliament at the last election although following controversy last year its MEP, Godfrey Bloom, became an independent.
Mr Clegg has branded the Liberal Democrats as the ‘party of IN’ ahead of the election and promised as “passionate defence of British interests in Europe” while Mr Cameron is looking to position the Conservatives as the moderate alternative to the “extremes” offered by Ukip and the Lib Dems.