Outside the Pet Rescue Centre in Cliftonville, Nigel Farage hands Mick Solly his new “Say NO” EU referendum leaflet, asking: “What EU concessions will David Cameron win for Britain? Answer: Whatever Angela Merkel lets him have.” Solly, a man out of diamond-geezer central casting, stares for a moment at the unflattering portrait of the German Chancellor, before declaring: “I buried my gran three weeks ago and she looked better than that.”
Yes, we are back in the heart of Ukip land. Farage was in Thanet North where it all started and where we thought, for the half an hour or so before he unresigned after failing to win the seat in May, it had all finished. But no. He has been on a walkabout in Ramsgate, accompanied by the mayor Trevor Shonk – Ukip now controls the council here.
Yes, the reception is a little low key. One woman in dyed blue hair, when told why photographers are gathered, asks: “Is that all?” But several residents offer their warm commiserations for Farage’s non-election, something to which he repeatedly responds: “Life is a series of battles. Some you win and some you lose.” And, he says, an impressive 1,600 had signed up for his rally here last night – the first of his “round Britain tour” to promote the No cause.
Naturally enough, the worsening “EU migrant crisis” is a reason he thinks David Cameron will hold a referendum – one in which Farage believes immigration will be the hot issue – sooner rather than later. Farage insists he is all for helping “genuine refugees”, and that Britain might be more “generous” about welcoming them if 640,000 foreigners had not come to Britain last year – of whom, he claims, 4 per cent were refugees.
He quotes the Prime Minister of Slovakia as claiming that the large majority of those coming to Europe are not refuges, adding: “It is a dramatic policy failure of the European Union, Brussels, compounded by Germany, that has sent out the message that anyone who gets to European soil can claim to be a refugee.”
Pausing for a pint, Farage declares he is “excited” by the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader because of a disdain for the EU which he says Labour MEPs told him was evident when Corbyn met them.
Farage is wearing a tie bearing the Illegitimi non carborundum slogan: “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.” So Corbyn isn’t one of Farage’s illegitimi for now, at least. Whether the aspirant Labour leader reciprocates the sentiment remains to be seen.
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