UKIP leader Nigel Farage packs them in at Suffolk meeting
- 26 March 2013
- From the section England
There can't be many senior politicians who are able to pack a hall on a freezing, snowy night and then, when the meeting's over, roll into the local pub and hold fort at the bar for the next hour and a half.
Step forward, Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party.
It was standing room only at the Brandon Community Hall in Suffolk. More than 300 people crammed into the room. Another 20 or 30 people stood in the corridor straining to listen and the police were called to direct the traffic.
"I thought UKIP was only for eccentrics, fruitcakes and gadflies, so I'm glad so many of you are members of the club," joked Mr Farage, referring to a comment by Prime Minister David Cameron, while pushing his way to the front.
Mr Farage is not going to let that one go in a hurry and Mr Cameron's words must be ringing in his ears when an events like this attract so much attention.
"The fact that there are so many of you here shows that there's a change going on."
The UKIP leader believes that the Westminster parties have lost touch with the concerns and aspirations of ordinary people and he thinks UKIP can fill the gap.
"We're plain spoken, we're not bound by political correctness and we're talking about the kind of things that people are talking about around their dining room tables," he told us later.
"The Eastleigh by-election (where the party came 2nd) was a hell of an event in British politics. I feel that if this momentum continues, with the attitude of the country the way it is, we will soon cause a political earthquake."
To loud cheers, he told the meeting in Brandon that UKIP was now the only party that talked common sense.
No to the EU
"Europe is now in the grip of fanatics," said the MEP. "I don't just want Britain out of the EU, I want the rest of Europe out of the EU."
Mr Farage criticised the deal to rescue the Cyprus economy, involving a levy on bank deposits. "It is deeply worrying and sets a dangerous precedent," he said and advised anyone with a second home in Europe or savings in a European bank to think very carefully.
Mr Farage had plenty to say on immigration and praised the former Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire, Julie Spence: "One of the brave ones for speaking out about the pressures of migration."
Controversially, he remarked that he had been "flabbergasted to go to Peterborough and see ghettos where virtually no English is spoken". It was a comment condemned on Twitter by Labour MEP Richard Howitt, as "shameful".
A recent opinion poll suggested that UKIP has more support in the east than anywhere else in the country. Mr Farage is hoping that will translate into lots of new councillors in the forthcoming local elections and set up the party to top the poll in next year's Euro elections
It is worth remembering that the UKIP leader has made optimistic claims before and yet his party only has a handful of councillors and not one MP.
There is no doubt that support in the east continues to grow and if the reception he received in Brandon is anything to go by, other parties might do well to take note.
The big question is whether it will be enough this time to create the political earthquake that Nigel Farage hopes for.