Fortunately for Ukip, its new policies on compulsory genital inspection for Muslim teenagers and the ban on face coverings had already been announced earlier in the week (much to the irritation of the British Beekeepers Association). So the fact that, at its official campaign launch in London on Friday morning, much of the press that had arrived to cover it had to be kettled in the bar of the Marriott County Hall Hotel, was not as grave a disaster as it might otherwise have been.
Seven activists from Unite Against Racism had arrived half an hour before the event was due to start, very thinly disguised as journalists. But they inadvertently kicked off their direct action 20 minutes before the event itself began, taking a brave stand against an unoccupied lectern and a large number of empty seats.
The press conference went ahead, but with the press mostly locked out, while Westminster Marriott Hotel staff awaited the arrival of the police to come and evacuate the interlopers who had by now relocated their sit-in to the outside corridor. “Unite against racism!” they chanted, interrupted only intermittently by French tourists asking the way to the London Eye.
When Mr Nuttall eventually made it, he pledged that Ukip would be the “backbone” that would prevent “backsliding” on Brexit from the Conservatives. Theresa May’s inevitable massive majority would, he said, leave her with enough “lobby fodder” not to have to deliver on the harder aspects of hard Brexit that Ukip so desire – specifically, no transition arrangement that might prevent a massive reduction in immigration numbers taking place with immediate effect.
“Ukip goes into this snap election determined to hold the Government’s feet to the fire on Brexit,” he said. “We will act as the Government’s backbone in these negotiations. If voters elect a Ukip MP, they can be sure it will be a true Brexiteer.”
Mr Nuttall will declare which constituency he intends to stand in on Saturday, with adviser and MEP Patrick O’Flynn saying “pack your bucket and spade”, in reference to suspicions it will be iBoston amd Skegness.
Victory there would require a 5 per cent swing toward the party from the Conservatives, who won the seat in 2015, at a time when the polls have done precisely that but in the opposite direction. When Mr Nuttall was elected Ukip leader in November 2016, he deliberately sought to relaunch the party to take seats from Labour in the North, something he himself tried and failed to do at a by-election in Stoke-on-Trent in February.
Answering questions after the speech, Nuttall said he would not resign if Ukip failed to win any seats. “Would I resign? I don’t think I would, because I think Ukip has a fantastic future ahead,” he said.
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