NIGEL Farage has revealed that the UK Independence Party’s general election strategy will be significantly swayed by its success or failure in the South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner by-election.
During a campaign trip to the region, Ukip’s leader suggested the result would sway the party’s decision on the extent to which it contests Westminster seats in the region next year.
The party enjoyed a significant breakthrough in Yorkshire in the May local elections as it became the main opposition group on Rotherham Council and took seats in Doncaster and Sheffield.
Ukip also polled the most votes in Doncaster and Rotherham in the European elections as it won three of the region’s six seats in the European Parliament.
Mr Farage told The Yorkshire Post: “There are a few seats in this part of the world that we are looking at and thinking about very very seriously.
“But I make no bones about it, what happens here on October 30 will determine, to a very large extent, what our national strategy is and how South Yorkshire fits into that.
“If we win this suddenly we look like winners in South Yorkshire and that flip in perception makes a heck of a difference.”
Mr Farage said the recent Heywood and Middleton by-election, a previously safe Labour seat where Ukip was only second by 617 votes, was hugely significant.
Speaking at a police and crime commissioner campaign event at the National Emergency Services Museum, he looked to position Ukip as the main alternative to Labour in the North.
“What is happening now in the North, is that in these big towns and cities, the Conservatives have all but disappeared, the Liberal Democrats have gone up in a puff of smoke and we are now the opposition party,” he said.
“And for those voters who want real change, change in terms of the police and crime commissioners, but the same emphasis in terms of the general election next year, we are the challengers in the North of England.
“And if we do anything like as well as I think we can do in this election on October 30, if we can win this if we can show Ukip can win in the North of England then I think the implications for what we could do in next year’s general election are very significant indeed.”
Ukip’s leader was visiting Yorkshire as David Cameron and outgoing European Commission president Manuel Barroso, on a visit to London, clashed over the British Prime Minister’s apparent intention to demand increased controls on migration as part of his proposed renegotiation of Britain’s European Union membership.
Mr Farage said he agreed “100 per cent” with Mr Barroso’s insistence that the free movement of people is a fundamental principle of the EU and Mr Cameron was acting out of desparation ahead of the Rochester by-election.
“I would say (the Prime Minister’s) policy changes with each by-election. Rochesteris high noon, its a high noon moment.
“He is deliberately trying to deceive the British people that we can have our cake and eat it with the European treaties we cannot and I think Mr Barroso’s visit has pretty fatally undermined that argument.
The Ukip leader later enjoyed a pint and a chat with voters in the Rhinos social club, in Bentley, in Labour leader Ed Miliband’s Doncaster North constituency.
Local businessman Tony Ward took the change to ask Mr Farage’s opinion about the introduction of selective licensing of landlords in the area.
He said: “I think it would be difficult to unseat Ed as the MP but I think they will do well in the council elections next time around and I think if they got a decent candidate they could win the mayoral election.”
The position of South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner was left vacant following the resignation of Shaun Wright in the wake of the report into child sexual expolitation in Rotherham.