UKIP leader Nigel Farage has announced that the UK Independence Party will appoint a shadow cabinet of sorts following UKIP’s historic European election win last night.
Speaking at a press conference in Westminster, Farage said that there was a fair criticism of UKIP being labelled a “one man band” up until recently, and that following the election of a number of talented new MEPs, he would assign different briefs and become less available for general interviews.
This signals a change in UKIP’s strategy up until now, and while the risks associated with having new spokespeople in the media are palpable, it also lifts burdens off the leader’s shoulders, and demonstrates a strength in depth likening them to the other major political parties.
Farage began by claiming that on November 5th 2010, he was re-elected leader of UKIP with the “aim and ambition win the European Elections in 2014.”
“Despite shedloads of abuse, the people’s army went out and voted UKIP,” he said. “We have proven over the last few days that we are genuinely a UK Independence Party…” Farage noted, alluding to the fact that UKIP support was not simply limited to a few pockets across Britain.
“The single most remarkable result last night was in Wales, where UKIP was just a few thousands votes away from beating the Labour Party… in Wales!”
And then he pivoted to the major parties, claiming that Clegg, Miliband and Cameron were all grossly out of touch with the British public. In an attempt to force the Liberal Democrats’ hand over their failing leadership, he announced, “I find it very difficult to believe that Clegg will lead the Liberal Democrats into the next general election”.
Speaking on the Labour Party he said Ed Miliband must offer a referendum on Europe or face becoming UKIP’s greatest recruiting tool. He predicted that Miliband would perform an about-face on the issue during the party conference season in October this year.
And then he turned to the Conservative Party, “The test for David Cameron will come in 10 days time,” he said, speaking about the UK Parliamentary by-election in Newark.
“There is a by-election in Newark… the peoples army of UKIP will march on newark… the Tory majority is simply massive, we are being asked to climb everest int he space of 2 days…”
Finally, Farage announced the effective formation of a UKIP shadow cabinet, stating: “A lot of people have said that UKIP is a one man band… Over the next few weeks i am going to appoint a number of people to take over briefs…”
“I do feel like the manifesto for 2010 was perhaps not the right way to approach politics… we have already been doing substantial work on NHS, on Defence, on domestic politics… We will unveil our manifesto in Doncaster, where Ed Miliband is a member of parliament… We will have an honest conversation about the cost of living crisis.”
Farage was more warmly received by the press than usual, in perhaps a doffing of their communal cap from a media who have been inherently hostile to UKIP for years.
But that didn’t stop BBC political correspondent Nick Robinson attempting to sour the mood at the end. While journalists were promised a speech from Farage, and not a question and answer session, Robinson shouted a number of times, “Is this a media event with no questions? What questions are you afraid of”.
Some things won’t change.