Nigel Farage has challenged Ed Miliband to “come and have a go” in a one-on-one TV debate between the two party leaders.
It comes as a response to the Labour leader’s rousing speech at the University of London today, in which he pledged to “take apart” Ukip, the Tories and the Lib Dems.
In an open letter addressed to Mr Miliband, Mr Farage said he was presenting him with the “opportunity” to do just that – in the form of a “live, televised, head-to-head debate before the start of the general election campaign”.
And the challenge was put even more bluntly on Twitter, where the Ukip leader linked to his own letter and wrote: “Come and have a go, Ed Miliband.”
Mr Miliband’s speech represented a passionate defence of his ability to lead the party – and, if he gets his way, the country.
“The Tories have no answers to the discontent people feel,” he told an audience of party activists and members of the media. “Ukip have wildly wrong answers to that discontent. And who knows what one can say about the Liberal Democrats? Friends, I say we can take this lot apart and it is time we did.”
The “take this lot apart” line is a direct quotation from Tony Blair’s farewell speech to Labour conference in 2006 – yet apparently Mr Farage has taken it to heart.
His letter reads: “I heard about your speech today in London. I must say I was quite surprised.
“A few months ago we sat on a couch together in front of television cameras and I suggested we debate, head to head. You more or less declined.
“Now I hear that you want to take me, Ukip, and all that we stand for ‘apart’. Well let me give you the opportunity.
In pictures: The rise of Ukip
In pictures: The rise of Ukip
1/8 1993: Alan Sked forms Ukip
History professor Alan Sked had been active in anti-EU politics for a while beore he founded Ukip in 1993. He resigned from the party after the 1997 election, concerned that it was attracting far-right members, and has been critical of Ukip since. Picture: Reuters
2/8 2005: Kilroy defects
Former TV presenter Robert Kilroy-Silk founded Veritas in 2005, after a failed bid to become leader, and took many of Ukip's elected members with him. But the party slowly lost its popularity and didn't put forward any candidates in the last election. Picture: REUTERS/Kieran Doherty REUTERS KD/RUS
3/8 2010: Farage becomes leader, again
Farage had led Ukip from 2006 until 2009, when he stood down to fight against the Speaker, John Bercow, for his Buckingham seat. He failed to win the election and returned to lead the party in November 2010. Picture: REUTERS/Kieran Doherty
4/8 2010: Ukip fights for election
Nigel Farage was injured in a plane crash on polling day in the 2010 general election, but his party increased its success in the votes. It fielded 572 candidates and took 3.1% of the vote, though failed to win any seats. REUTERS/Darren Staples
5/8 2013: Eastleigh gains
Ukip's candidate Diane James got the highest ever number of votes for any candidate from the party, but was beaten by the Liberal Democrats. The surge in support gave Ukip confidence ahead of local and European elections later in the year. Picture: Reuters
6/8 2013: Bloom kicked out
Godfrey Bloom, who served as an Ukip MEP from 2004 to 2014, had the whip withdrawn in 2013 after sexist comments and an attack on a journalist. He sat as an independent MEP until 2014, when he ended his term in office. Picture: REUTERS/Luke MacGregor
7/8 2014: European election success
Ukip got a higher proportion of the vote than any other party in 2014's European elections, adding 11 new MEPs and taking its total to 24. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor
8/8 2014: Carswell defects
Douglas Carswell defected from Ukip at the end of August, and was followed by Mark Reckless at the end of September, who resigned from the Tories amid rumours of many more defections to come. Picture: REUTERS/Toby Melville
“Let’s have a live, televised, head-to-head debate before the start of the general election campaign. I’m free any time after November 24th”.
Mr Farage will already debate with Mr Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg as part of plans to hold three debates in the six weeks before polling day next year. Those plans have excluded the Green Party leadership – though more than 200,000 people have signed an online petition to change that.