Nigel Farage: You Ask The Questions

The leader of the UK Independence Party answers your questions, such as 'Is there anyone else normal in your party?' and 'When did you last see Kilroy?'
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The Independent Online

If you make electoral gains, what could you actually do in the European Parliament to further your cause? FRANCIS O'CONNELL, Durham

The most important thing we in UKIP do in the parliament is act as an opposition. We're the only party who ever manage to get people questioning the basic aims of the project itself.

Isn't there a part of you that would rather still be inside the Conservative Party, making your voice heard in the eurosceptic party that will soon be in power in Britain? JANE JENKINS, Lewisham, London

If I thought the Conservatives were eurosceptic then there might be some point to considering the question. As they're most definitely not, at least not sufficiently – there isn't. The Tories make what I consider to be an appalling error of logic. They believe it is possible to reform the EU from within. After the way in which the institutions didn't listen to the Dutch, French and Irish referenda this isn't a tenable position. We can only change things by being out of the system.

If another party offered a referendum on the EU, would you still have a reason to exist? ALEX STRONG, Sheffield

You might remember several parties did offer a referendum. Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Tories all promised one on the constitution, for example. UKIP has been highly vocal in reminding people of this: so their offering a referendum isn't a reason for our non-existence. It's also true that the Lib Dems are suggesting a straight "in or out" referendum, something we wholeheartedly believe should happen.

How can you call other parties greedy when you have used an unbelievable £2m in expenses in the European Parliament yourself? HENRY WYATT, Farnham, SURREY

There is a massive confusion about this £2m expenses number, especially when you think the average Westminster MP costs £1.6m in expenses over a decade. For MEPs there is no second home allowance, no John Lewis list. What does happen is that in order to help me represent a constituency which is some 100 times the size of a Westminster one (in fact, my constituency is larger by population than half the member states of the EU) there is an allowance for me to hire staff. This money goes to my accountants who then pay the staff, the taxes and so on. This is the notorious £2m figure: add up the cost of those staff over the decade. Greed would be my pocketing some or all of this, as it is I never even see it let alone take any of it. I would not go quite as far as Chris Davies, the Lib Dem MEP, who told Open Europe he claims his whole staff allowance and, when asked whether he had ever paid back any excess, said: "Don't think so. If there was an 'excess' then I would not be doing my political and parliamentary work to the best of my abilities." But it does cost money to equip me with the staff needed to represent six million electors.

Be honest: the European Parliament is famously lax on expenses, and UKIP members are not immune to joining the gravy train are they? EVE WARBURTON, Bristol

We've had a bad apple, this is true but they exist in every walk of life. What matters is what you do when you find one. In our case we simply fired the miscreant as soon as we found out what he'd (allegedly, for the case is still to come to court) been doing.

There is no chance of your success in the European elections ever translating into Westminster seats, is there? GEOFF WALTER, London

I'm not sure why you might think that. True, the first-past-the-post system makes it more difficult for us but do remember it took the Scottish National Party more than 50 years to gain their first seat; it took us six years in the European Parliament.

Was David Cameron right to take the Conservatives out of the European People's Party? BRYAN JACOBS, Whitchurch, SHROPSHIRE

Yes: he promised it and politicians should, like everyone else, keep their promises.

Have you got any views on any issues other than Europe? TERRI HASTINGS, Carlisle

Of course: for example, we need to take the low paid out of the income tax net. Increase the personal allowance to the same as minimum wage, around £11,500 a year. Other advocates of this idea include the rather strange bedfellows of the Adam Smith Institute and Oxfam.

Is there anyone else credible and normal in your party? Can you give some examples? PAUL GONNE, Belfast

"Normal" means the same as the majority and as innumerable opinion polls have shown the majority share our thought that Britain should leave the EU and simply trade and cooperate rather than being part of the political union. Thus those who insist that we stay in, or that we integrate further, are those who are abnormal. And yes, of course we have credible people in the party, you can look at the list of 68 people plus myself who are standing in the election on Thursday for evidence of that.

What can you do about the fact that whatever your own views, your party is bound to attract xenophobes? WILLIAM SCANNELL, Exeter, DEVON

Phobia means fear and I seriously doubt we attract anyone at all who fears foreigners. We're against a specific political structure, the European Union, remember, not worrying that someone might be putting that awful foreign garlic into our roast beef.

Does it upset you that some people put you on the same continuum as the British National Party? MATILDA SCURR, Ascot, BERKSHIRE

The same continuum, no, for that just means a range or progression. All political parties are on the same continuum. I would be upset if someone said that we were in the same place on that continuum as the racists and thugs of the BNP but then that's too ridiculous a thing for anyone to try to essay as a serious suggestion.

If you could recruit one member of another party, who would it be? ROBERT PACK, High Wycombe, BUCKINGHAMSHIRE

Ian Botham, a huge hero to both my and my children's generation.

What is Stuart Wheeler like? Did you mind him saying he would still vote Conservative? PIA MARKS, Chesterfield, DERBYSHIRE

I like Stuart very much and admire his courage immensely. To be thrown out of a party you've contributed so much to, as he has in the past to the Tories, simply because you follow your conscience must be painful. As to his intention to vote Conservative in a Westminster election: there's still time to convince him otherwise.

When did you last see Robert Kilroy-Silk? How do you feel about him now? JENNA FYSH, Devizes, WILTSHIRE

I really can't remember the last time I saw him: we ran a competition asking anyone who'd seen him either in his constituency or the parliament to contact us and we had no entries. As to feelings, I don't waste my emotions on him.

Have you ever seen a straight banana, and if so do you blame the EU? DEAN IRWIN, Wolverhampton

Yes and no. The argument about bananas is that, yes, having agreed standards is just fine. But it should be the growers, wholesalers and retailers that decide what is a grade I, grade II and so on. If someone then wants to sell bananas that are not graded, are not part of such a system, well, good luck to them. The consumers can see what they're getting and then make up their own minds. Under the EU system it is now a criminal offence, punishable by up to 6 months in jail, to sell a banana of "excessive curvature". Yes, it's all very jolly shouting "bendy bananas" at each other, but of those two systems, seriously, which do you think is the insane one?

I'm going to Brussels on holiday. Do you think I will have a good time? ALICE DAWES, London

You very much might. The beers and food can be absolutely excellent. Moules frites is a feast fit for the gods and for some strange reason Belgian chips are the finest in the world. However, any consideration of politics while you are there would spoil anyone's holiday.