UKIP leader Nigel Farage was in Sheffield today helping his party’s candidates in next month’s national, local and police and crime commissioner elections launch their campaigns.
Mr Farage spent the morning (Monday, April 18) speaking to people in Hillsborough ahead of the elections on May 5. He also had an eye on the EU referendum.
He was joined by Steven Winstone, who will contest the Brightside and Hillsborough parliamentary by-election against Spencer Pitfield from the Conservatives, Bobby Smith for the Give Me Back Elmo party, Christine Gilligan Kubo from the Green Party, Gill Furniss from Labour, Shaffaq Mohammed from the Lib Dems, and Steve Manion from Yorkshire First.
Also in Hillsborough was UKIP’s police and crime commissioner candidate Gavin Felton, who is up against Ian Walker from the Conservatives, David Allen from the English Democrats, incumbent Dr Alan Billings, from Labour, and Joe Otten from the Lib Dems.
The Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough by-election was triggered by the death of sitting Labour MP Harry Harpham. Sheffield councillor Gill Furniss, Mr Harpham’s wife, is widely expected to comfortably win what is one of Labour’s safest seats in the country.
With so much uncertainty surrounding the future of steel in South Yorkshire and the UK, the industry was a natural topic for Mr Farage yesterday. And with one eye on the by-election and one eye on the EU referendum, he said: “What we are saying is that steel, which is so much the backbone historically and in every way of the Sheffield community, has been affected grievously by membership of the EU. Firstly an expensive energy policy and now we are impotent to prevent the Chinese dumping on the market in the way in which they are.
“What we are saying is put somebody in parliament who actually wants to take back control of our lives and control of our key industries. And you can’t do that as a member of the European Union, so in a way the arguments we’re using in this by-election are very similar to the arguments we’re going to be using in the referendum debate in June.”
Mr Farage said he wanted to see signs UKIP was continuing to progress in South Yorkshire. But he criticised the large number of postal votes in the constituency and argued that put his party at a major disadvantage because voters were casting their ballot before properly hearing from all the candidates.
Mr Farage said: “There’s 18,000 postal votes in this constituency and that poses a massive problem for us.
“You can interpret it any way you want but I am deeply unhappy about the way postal votes have affected by-elections and in some cases rendered them almost irrelevant.”
UKIP came second in the seat at last year’s General Election, although still almost 14,000 votes behind Labour, and the party has enjoyed success in South Yorkshire in recent years, in particular in Rotherham where it is now the main opposition group on the council.
Mr Farage said: “My view is that we’ve made a lot of progress with the Labour vote in much of the North of England.
“My view remains that we can go a lot further, a lot lot further, and what I expect to see in this by-election is UKIP continuing to make progress.”
He added: “I’m not going to make any stupid predictions for May 5 but what I’m certain of is that those people who have come to UKIP really believe in UKIP and will turn out. And in what could be a low turnout election that could lead to some very interesting results.”
The UKIP leader’s visit to Sheffield coincided with Chancellor George Osborne publishing a new analysis from the Treasury suggesting British families would be £4,300 a year worse off if the country leaves the European Union.
The claim was ridiculed by Mr Farage, a leading figure in the campaign for a Leave vote in the referendum on Britain’s EU membership which takes place on June 23.
He said: “This is the Chancellor who can’t even get three month predictions right. This is the Chancellor who has doubled our national debt since he took over in 2010. He is the most spectacular fiscal failure of all time.
“For him to come out with the most astonishing scare story in economic terms I’ve ever heard is scarcely credibly but it shows you how scared he is.”