EU referendum: Did Bulwell back Nigel Farage's 'Great Escape'?

Farage on his bus
Image caption Nigel Farage spoke to people from the top of his bus

Nigel Farage's bus was running late because of an extended lunch break at a village pub in Leicestershire.

But those UKIP supporters who had come from around the East Midlands to greet their leader used some of the time waiting in Bulwell Market to hand out leaflets to a few cautious shoppers and a few receptive ones.

UKIP members have been branded on social media as being obsessed by a single issue. What will happen after the referendum? Win or lose. Who will they be appealing to then?

For UKIP's Nottingham Chairman, Francesco Lari, it was important to get his party leader into territory where he felt they could get a sympathetic ear.

"There are lots of small businesses on Bulwell Market and they would be better off out of the EU," he said.

Image caption Nigel Farage was ushered back into his car after being egged in 2015

A manageable, more receptive crowd would also go some way to erasing the egging Nigel Farage suffered on his last campaigning visit in the centre of Nottingham two years ago.

Bulwell is part of the Labour stronghold of Nottingham North. Mr Lari said they were encouraged by an 18% showing for UKIP in last year's General Election, not far off the Tories who finished second.

The purple double-decker bus with a giant Nigel Farage face on the side swept into sight to cheers from the waiting activists.

Image caption Nigel Farage spoke to voters in Bulwell Market

The theme tune to the Great Escape blared out the speakers on top to their delight and Mr Farage gave a vigorous impression of an enthusiastic conductor. "Do you like our theme tune? " he roared. They did. "Because that's what we've got to do isn't it? We've got to escape."

We managed to get a face to face chat with Mr Farage in the scrum which surrounded him as he stepped off the bus. I put it to him that it did not end terribly well for most of the characters in the film who, well, didn't escape.

Unsurprisingly he had an answer for that. Tongue in cheek at first. "Well I may be put up against a wall and shot you never know and many wanted that to happen. But the idea that you stand up and fight against bullying and authoritarianism is absolutely right and true and that is what we are trying to do."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption UKIP launched their bus tour in London

Quite how this sits with his reported words earlier in the day in Dudley when he was said to have urged supporters to bully people into voting Brexit. "Go out and persuade people, bully people, go down the pubs, the clubs, your family and get them to vote to take back our country. We want our country back."

When the scrum diminished and he was able to reach something approaching a walking pace the UKIP leader would talk to anyone who approached. He bought a bunch of flowers from the market place for £2 and handed them to a delighted lady in a red Vote Leave t-shirt.

In a very unscientific sample at the market we spoke to three stall holders and got three different responses. The man selling undies told us where he would like to stick EU membership and bemoaned what he called the gravy train. His wife was rather more keen to interest the UKIP leader in a new pair of Y-fronts but sadly that picture opportunity did not materialise.

Image caption Shadow Europe minister Pat Glass accepted her remarks were "inappropriate"

On a Jamaican food stall was a lady who had tried to find out the arguments from both sides of the debate. She spoke about the benefits of being a member but had listened to the Brexit words too. A man on one of the veg stalls said he did not really know what both sides were saying but he wanted England to be like it used to be.

I'm uncertain how far back he was referring to but the UKIP leader harked back to England of old and more particularly Nottingham.

"Cameron is like the Sheriff of Nottingham. These people...." he said, gesturing to those in the Market Place, "... are the spirit of Robin Hood".

At least he knew where he was unlike Labour's Shadow Europe Minister, Pat Glass, who days earlier had been recorded calling a voter in the Derbyshire village of Sawley a "horrible racist" and "I'm never coming back to wherever this is."

Knowing where you are and who your audience is should always be important for all campaigning politicians. UKIP clearly knew that when they decided to come to Bulwell. Campaigning continued in the Royal Oak pub just off the Market Place. Mr Farage later tweeted he had gone in for a sherbet to thank local UKIP activists.

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