I have had an exhausting few days even by my standards, in what was a hectic week. Fresh from being bashed around the head in Margate, after a violent protest from a combination of Socialist Workers, a Green Party councillor and animal rights activists who fail to realise that Ukip is the only party which would ban live animal exports, I have just completed a 500-mile round trip in 48 hours.
But I am pleased to say that while my neck is aching, making sleep elusive, my voice is still in fine fettle. Which is just as well given the number of public meetings and speeches I had to make in what was one of the busiest schedules of my political career.
It started at the LSE, in London, on Thursday evening, with a debate on why these European elections are important. After a speech, I took part in an hour-long Q&A with a varied audience, from pro-EU students and Romanians to young people with a more libertarian outlook, and those who have been part of the Eurosceptic cause for many years. It’s always nice to have an intellectual debate and the guests at dinner made for a lively conversation.
But after a late arrival back home, it wasn’t long before I was on the move again, this time for a trip that included five public meetings, two private dinner and speaking engagements (my staff always try to include at least one of these so that they know I get fed on occasion), a host of media interviews and 500 miles to cover.
I always enjoy my “Phone Farage” slots with Nick Ferrari on LBC because I get to speak to real people and talk to them about the issues that genuinely concern them rather than faux outrage stirred up by political opponents and commentators. And because I actually answer questions that have been put to me by voters who want to know my answer, there is usually some controversy stirred up. This time it was because I thought that knee-jerk legislation rarely did what it was intended to do; in this instance, the banning of handguns did not stop deaths from gun crime.
With no time to dwell on the latest media furore, I had to jump on the train to Lancashire. Now, maybe I am an incredibly patient person but, when we arrived in Preston after just two hours and two minutes, I was left wondering once again at the folly that is HS2. With such a quick service already, and plenty of seats available, why are we looking to spend upwards of £50bn (when was the last time a government project came in on budget?), spoiling beautiful parts of the English countryside, on a journey taken by only 2 per cent of commuters?
It is the journey into London from Kent that is overcrowded, and it is these 150,000 commuters – who spend each morning pressed closer to strangers than they do to their loved ones – who deserve to have their railways receive investment. HS2 is one of the driving factors behind the increased support for Ukip in Buckinghamshire, where last year we took a swathe of seats on the county council.
After a public meeting in Cheshire, an early round of interviews on Saturday and a trip to Sale East to meet with Ukip’s by-election candidate, John Bickley, by 11am I was back on the road for the 180-mile journey back to my own patch.
Saturday saw the first official day of campaigning in the south-east region. Despite the grizzly weather, I could not have asked for a better turnout and warmer support. The encouragement and enthusiasm of the audiences – of whom roughly 75 per cent were not Ukip members when they arrived – kept me going.
My political opponents may think that weather-forecasting ex-Tory councillors (David Silvester) and honestly answering questions will stop Ukip winning the European elections. But the impression I got from the thousands of people I met and spoke to this last weekend makes me doubt it. They like our straightforward approach.