NIGEL Farage says he believes his party's 'basic patriotic message' will tear traditional Labour supporters away to UKIP ahead of this May's general election.

The leader of the UK Independence Party told The Bolton News how he is 'proud' to have taken votes from the BNP and that his party is no longer a protest vote.

Mr Farage, who is standing to become the party's MP in South Thanet, was speaking before a business dinner at the Bolton Whites Hotel in Horwich, where he was due to explain how leaving the European Union would benefit Bolton businesses.

Commenting on Bolton West - one of the most marginal seats in the country - he described the upcoming vote as 'unreadable' but one where he expects UKIP will make great strides.

"Firstly this is the most unpredictable general election certainly in living memory, but secondly of all of the unpredictabilities the North West is pretty near the top of that", he said.

"Who would have even believed that on  the edge of Greater Rochdale, in what was perceived to be a safe Labour seat, we come within a fag paper of winning it?"

Mr Farage said the party's 'basic patriotic message' resonates with traditional Labour supporters not just in Bolton - where the party saw its first Greater Manchester councillors elected - but across the region.

"I think that the Labour party was a party that was always associated with working class people, and I don't think that a lot of old Labour people  ­- traditional patriotic old Labour people - do not look at the modern Labour party and recognise it as being the same party their grandma and grandad voted for.

"UKIP picks up its support across the board, but we are in one of the most Labour dominated parts of the United Kingdom and clearly if we are to succeed we have to take a very large number of Labour votes.

"I think there is a basic patriotic message that UKIP has, which people feel pretty strongly, and I would emphasis that patriotism can be a very deeply respectful thing."

When asked if he was proud for UKIP to have attracted voters who previously supported the BNP, he said: "Yes. We have destroyed them.

"Peter Hain, Hope Not Hate... all these people standing outside waving flags and throwing eggs - they haven't done a blooming thing to defuse the BNP."

The leader of the BNP Nick Griffin, Mr Farage argued, was 'exposed' when he appeared on Question Time, but UKIP also made a conscious decision to appeal to BNP voters through leaflets and the media in 2010.

"We said: 'If you are voting BNP because you are deeply frustrated with immigration, falling wages, but you are doing so holding your nose because you do not subscribe to the racist agenda of the BNP, come and vote for us'.

"We knew what was happening was a lot of people were voting BNP but didn't really like them. They felt it was their only possible way of registering their dissatisfaction."

As the Green Party saw its membership rocket to an all-time high last week, Mr Farage dismissed questions suggesting that they were now taking UKIP's place as the 'protest vote'.

He said: "There is no Green surge. I have got 120,000 supporters out there, I don't claim them as members. 

"There has been a rise in the Greens in the last week because of a whole media agenda, particulary the Tory press, are talking the Greens up because they want to kill the debate."

He added: "I think that the UKIP for many, many years was a protest vote. 

"I think nearly all political movements and campaigning movements get off the ground and by saying 'no, enough is enough, it is time we put our foot down. It's time we shouted and we sent a message'.

"I don't think since early 2013 the UKIP vote has been a protest vote and I think the attempt by the BBC and everybody else since each election success and advance to simply call it a protest vote has now been laughed out of court.

"I don't buy that and I think UKIP now is very much more about what we are for, than what we are against, and that is certainly how I intend to fight the General Election."

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