I planned to spend my weekend winding down ahead of Christmas and the impending arrival of friends and family. But fate, with a helping hand from fellow politicians and the media, has meant that avoiding responding to comments made about me has been rather difficult.
First, and most disappointingly, there was Godfrey Bloom, the Ukip member who in an interview published on Saturday said, among many other things, that I was “not interested in policy” and that Ukip was a “no-policy party”. Well let’s talk about policy. Since I became leader of Ukip for the second time in November 2010 I have fought hard for our voice to be heard beyond EU and immigration issues, especially on education and energy. I put every fibre of my being into trying to professionalise our campaigning methods in Parliamentary by-elections and local elections. There is no doubt that my recent major surgery is as a direct result of hugely overworking.
That brings me to Ukip’s 2013 conference which, contrary to what Bloom says, was all about policy. The objective was clear: I, as leader, would stick to the core issues on which we would fight the European elections next year. But crucially we would give a big profile to other figures in Ukip to outline our broader domestic policies as a reinforcement of our local election success of May.
On the morning of the start of conference the big new policy announcement was the establishment of a sovereign wealth fund to tap some of the profits of shale gas to help to pay for the increasing costs of long-term elderly health care. It was a brilliant idea, based on a Norwegian model, and chosen by Tim Aker, our first ever full-time head of policy. In order to confront the “Ukip is a one-man band” criticism, I decided not to release this policy myself but to give the job to our energy spokesman, the excellent Roger Helmer MEP. And when I heard the One o’clock news on the BBC, I nearly cheered. Item 1: Farage says Ukip will win the European elections. Item 2: Roger Helmer announces a proposal for a sovereign wealth fund to pay for elderly care.
While all this was happening a women-in-Ukip meeting was in progress. It was now that an earlier Godfrey Bloom comment about “women not cleaning behind the fridge” got aired, and then with the TV cameras on him, he suddenly blurted out that “this place is full of sluts”.
Within minutes the political reporter Michael Crick had been bashed over the head with a conference programme, something that many politicians have wanted to do over the years, but it was unhelpful nonetheless for Bloom to do it. The third and perhaps most damaging incident was a direct threat by Bloom to an ITV journalist that unless “proper respect” was shown he would get a bash over the head too. So at the very moment that the “no-policy party” was unveiling new ideas and looking forward to hearing a speech by Lord (Digby) Jones, former UK trade minister, Godfrey turned attention away from policy and on to himself.
Bloom now apparently claims that a “deal has already been done” with the Conservatives and that in exchange for standing down Ukip candidates I will be given a seat in the House of Lords. I have no idea where this could have come from, other than the wilder shores of the internet.
As recent polling has shown, less than a third of our vote comes from the Tories and our real potential is with Old Labour and, very interestingly, formerly non-voters re-engaging with politics. Why on earth would I want to sell out Ukip when we are on the verge of changing British politics in a fundamental way? My intention is to ruthlessly target the right seats to break into Westminster. The polls in our key areas show that this is now a realistic possibility. To remove all doubt: I have not had a conversation with any political party about doing a deal. While it is true that Ukip really should be offered some seats in the House of Lords, especially if Mr Cameron honours his pledge to make the chamber representative of voting patterns, this would not interest me. These allegations are a total fabrication.
Even if these allegations weren’t ridiculous enough they do seem rather highbrow compared to the bizarre outburst on The Andrew Marr Show yesterday by the Tory defence minister Anna Soubry. This is a woman who proved to not even have a grip on her portfolio last month when on Question Time she showed she had absolutely no idea about the Royal Navy support ships being built in South Korea.
Her half-hearted apology after her rather anatomical description of me is clearly not genuine, and I look forward to standing a Ukip candidate in her constituency in 2015.