Ukip leader Paul Nuttall has denied suggestions that the Tories Hard Brexit agenda has undermined his party’s hold on heartlands in the North, as he reveals he is prepared to be “ruthless” in his efforts to target prospective seats.
Speaking to the Yorkshire post following the launch of Ukip’s 2017 manifesto, the North West MEP admitted that party was guilty of a “scattergun”approach in 2015, but would not make the same mistake this time round.
Mr Nuttall also dismissed suggestions his party is losing its relevance to voters in a post-Brexit world, as he warned a large Tory majority in June would allow Theresa May to “backslide” on issues like immigration and EU payments.
In contrast, anyone backing a Ukip MP “can be damn sure they will campaign for what... people voted for on June 24.”
“I think the point we’ve got to get across is actually in many ways a whopping Tory majority is not necessarily going to be good for Brexit,” Mr Nuttall said.
“I’m not convinced we wont go down the line of a soft Brexit.
“Theresa May campaigned to remain, [and] we know Philip Hammond isn’t necessarily keen on Brexit himself.
“At the moment she’s beholden to around 50 clean Brexiteers [but] if the Tories get a huge majority we will begin to see them backslide on immigration... on a membership fee [and] I think they’ll sell out our fishing communities.”
Unveiling the party’s general election platform today, the five-time Parliamentary hopeful confirmed he will be making his sixth attempt to get elected to the Commons. He is expected to announce where he will be standing at a campaign rally tomorrow.
He also confirmed reports that the party will not run candidates in seats where the incumbent MP is long-standing Brexiteer.
But he stressed this will only be in a handful of areas – “we are talking in tens of seats, not hundreds” – where the sitting MP has a slim majority.
Asked which Yorkshire constituencies are considered prime targets, Mr Nuttall said there are seats in the region “we are interested in” but refused to name specifics.
He also refused to identify constituencies where the party is prepared to aside for a pro-Brexit Tory, claiming all will be revealed when the full candidate list is published next week.
However, despite reports that the party is struggling to find enough candidates to run in June, he expressed optimism that Ukip will do well at this election.
Blaming the party’s disappointing performance in 2015 on a “scattergun” approach, he says the party will “really drill down” over the coming weeks to “get over the line in a number of seats”.
“The one thing we’ve learned from the 2015 elections is that there are no prizes for second place,” he said.
“What we will be doing in this election, is we will be targetting – and targeting ruthlessly – to ensure that we can get more people up than we did in 2015.”
The Ukip leader’s comments come amid an ongoing row over the party’s controversial calls to ban the burkha and introduce mandatory health checks to girls at risk of FGM.
Making a fresh defence of the so-called Integration Agenda, Mr Nuttall claimed that history will prove him right on the need to take a “radical” approach to Islamic extremism.
Asked whether he will take an equally tough stance on right-wing extremism – particularly in light of the murder of Jo Cox and death threats against other MPs – he pointed out that it was under his chairmanship that Ukip banned former members of groups like Britain First.
“We will not stand for extremism... the way we tackle (the far-right) is that we simply do not allow them to come anywhere near our party,” he said.