Ukip won’t grow unless it shakes off racist tag and embraces NHS admits MP as ‘Nazis’ storm conference

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Ukip will not grow unless it can shake off the taint of xenophobia and demonstrate it is the “party of the NHS”, one of its MPs has insisted.

Mark Reckless, who won a by-election in Rochester and Strood after defecting from the Tories, said currently voters knew Ukip wanted to leave the EU and cut immigration.

Dancers promoting the musical The Producers arrive outside the Ukip Spring Conference at the Winter Gardens Theatre in Margate, Kent.

Dancers promoting the musical The Producers arrive outside the Ukip Spring Conference at the Winter Gardens Theatre in Margate, Kent.

But the party must “talk about other things as well” and reassure people it is not a threat to the NHS in order to have wider appeal.

The comments came as a Nazi-themed troupe of dancers and a 16-tonne Second World War tank gatecrashed the start of Ukip’s spring party conference.

Performers in hot pants, jackboots and Nazi insignia high-kicked to the Springtime For Hitler tune as delegates arrived.

The dancers, from Mel Brooks’s musical The Producers, caused the scene outside Ukip’s conference venue - the Winter Gardens in Margate, Kent.

Mark Reckless, MP, makes a speech during the Ukip spring conference

Mark Reckless, MP, makes a speech during the Ukip spring conference

The seven-strong troupe of female dancers performed a choreographed routine as Springtime For Hitler blared from a PA system on the tank turret.

It emerged that the cast were in Margate to promote the new touring production of Brooks’s acclaimed musical comedy, which opens in Bromley on March 7.

Ukip leader Nigel Farage has been boosted by research indicating he is on track to win the nearby seat of South Thanet.

The Survation survey, funded by party donor Alan Bown, put Mr Farage on 39% ahead of Labour rival Will Scobie on 28% when people were prompted with candidate names.

Former Channel 4 Gogglebox stars Andrew and Carolyne Michael attend the Ukip spring conference

Former Channel 4 Gogglebox stars Andrew and Carolyne Michael attend the Ukip spring conference

A previous poll by Tory Lord Ashcroft in November had suggested the Conservatives could retain the seat - where their MP Laura Sandys is stepping down.

Mr Reckless told activists: “There are two things most people know about us - we want to leave the European Union, and we want to cut immigration.

“We should talk about those things. But if we want to get beyond 20%-30% of the vote to the 40% or so we will need to win constituencies, we will have to explain why we want those things, challenge some of the misconceptions there are around our party, and talk about other things as well.”

Mr Reckless, who was warmly received by the crowd, said Ukip wanted to leave the EU “not just to control our borders ... but to boost our economy”.

Dancers promoting the musical The Producers arrive outside the Ukip Spring Conference

Dancers promoting the musical The Producers arrive outside the Ukip Spring Conference

Pointing to figures showing net annual immigration had risen to 298,000 - three times David Cameron’s target - Mr Reckless said the party would “bring those numbers down”.

But he also argued that the points-based system would stop favouring migrants from Europe above those from other countries.

“Ukip is the only party that supports a non-discriminatory immigration system,” he said.

Labour and the Tories have seized on discussion within Ukip over the NHS, after Mr Farage indicated that he personally favours an insurance-based system. The party has made clear its policy is for healthcare free at the point of delivery.

Mr Reckless said Ukip would spend more than the other parties on the health service.

“To go beyond our base we will show that Ukip is the party of the NHS,” he said.”I was born into the NHS. My father was a doctor and my mother was a nurse. Three times the NHS has been a lifeline for our party leader. Ukip is the party of the NHS.”

Delegates await the start of the Ukip Spring Conference

Delegates await the start of the Ukip Spring Conference

Mr Farage - who addressed a US conference featuring right-wing Tea Party politicians overnight - is due to speak in Margate this afternoon.

Deputy chairman Suzanne Evans, who is drafting the election manifesto, told the conference it would not include much-mocked policies from 2010 such as forcing taxi drivers to wear uniforms or painting rail carriages in Union flag colours.

Giving a broad outline of the Ukip platform, she insisted that pulling out of the EU would save £10 billion annually, and reducing aid spending to US levels another £11 billion.

Reviewing the Barnett formula for allocating funding to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would save up to £8 billion.

Activists cheered loudly when told scrapping the HS2 train link would save £4bn annually, and the money could be recycled in to tax cuts.

Health spokeswoman Louise Bours insisted Ukip did not want to privatise the NHS. The party would allocate an extra £3 billion a year to the health service, funded in the longer term by savings from leaving the EU.

The money would pay for 20,000 nurses, 3,000 midwives and 8,000 GPs, she said.

Tourists would need to have health insurance, and immigrants would only be entitled to free NHS care after paying tax for five years. Hospital parking charges would also be abolished.