Nigel Farage risked undermining his claim to be the main opposition party “from Birmingham to Hadrian’s Wall” by suggesting HS2 cash could go as part of his hung parliament negotiations.
The Ukip leader has unveiled his “no-coalition” strategy as he prepares to fight a General Election in which no party is expected to emerge with a clear majority.
Mr Farage said he would promise a “confidence and supply” arrangement to help a government form, but only on the guarantee of an In/Out European Union referendum.
Insisting he stood a chance of gaining more than just the two seats his party currently holds, Mr Farage said his was the only party that could challenge Labour across the north.
Mr Farage said Ukip was “a truly national political party”, dismissing the Conservatives as a “regional party for the South of England”
Speaking at an election launch Mr Farage said: “I think actually, if you look at Heywood and Middleton by-election, the Tories took votes from us and so Labour got in.
“You can see we are the clear challenger to Labour from Birmingham to Hadrian’s Wall,and we will certainly give Labour in the north a run for their money. “
One obstacle with the potential to hinder Mr Farage’s voter push in the north is his emerging opposition to High Speed 2, the multi-billion pound infrastructure project set to reduce journey times from Leeds to London.
Asked what his deficit reduction priorities were, Mr Farage said: “There are things we need to look at, there’s the EU budget of course, but there’s also the foreign aid budget, which is very wasteful.
“And there’s also HS2, which is going to cost up to £70bn over the next couple of decades, and we will need to look at that.”
Appearing at the Movie Starr Cinema in Canvey Island, Essex, the Ukip leader held a tub of popcorn bearing the party’s logo as he launched the drive for the May poll. e said the three main parties do not “believe in Britain” and predicted Ukip would win “significantly more” than two or three seats.
The only firm “red line” commitment he made during the speech was that the party would not compromise on its call for an EU referendum.
Mr Farage added: “We will not enter a coalition, no matter how tempting ministerial cars may be.
“We will only do a deal with anyone on the condition that there is an in/out referendum on the EU.”
He said Ukip was the only party standing up for the little man and that it would not engage in “dirty politics” as its opponents “turned nasty”.
Labour shadow cabinet minister Jon Trickett said Ukip had repeatedly shown itself to be a threat to the NHS.
The Hemsworth MP said: “No single speech is going to hide Ukip and Nigel Farage’s long-held beliefs on increasing NHS privatisation and further tax breaks for those at the top.
“The truth is Ukip are a party of Tory people, Tory policies and Tory money: they are more Tory than the Tories.
“The fact that Nigel Farage stood by Ukip’s party secretary after it was revealed he said the NHS was the ‘biggest waste of money in the UK’ tells you all you need to know about Ukip’s plans for our health service.
“They have supported people being charged to see their GP, increased privatisation and even deeper cuts to the NHS.
“Nigel Farage cannot claim to stand up for hard-working people.”