FORMER UKIP leader Nigel Farage says a campaign speech in Bolton was the moment he knew Britain would vote to leave the EU.
Speaking at the party’s spring conference at the Macron Stadium today, he told hundreds of supporters that towns like Bolton had become “completely and utterly disconnected” from Westminster.
Mr Farage said that UKIP had started a political revolution in 2016 and urged the party to remain a radical force in British politics.
He said: “I was here during the referendum campaign on the open-top, double-decker bus.
“It was raining, as it often does in Lancashire, and the microphones broke so I had to do my speech without them and was hoarse for hours.
“I remember thinking to myself how completely and utterly disconnected Westminster politics had become from towns like Bolton.
“And I thought after that day, ‘We are going to win this referendum’.”
Mr Farage added that UKIP had a “phenomenal” opportunity to win over millions of Labour voters in towns like Bolton, but that its leaders must not be tempted to adopt more mainstream views.
He said UKIP’s success had been built on the willingness to “think the unthinkable” and “speak the unspeakable.”
The party’s under-fire leader, Paul Nuttall, appeared to cry during his speech as he asked party members if they backed him and was answered with a standing ovation, following a fierce backlash over false claims that he lost close personal friends at Hillsborough.
UKIP succeeded because we had passion, guts and were prepared to speak our minds. It must remain a radical political party or it is nothing. pic.twitter.com/C4aEwmQO2o— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) February 17, 2017
Mr Nuttall refused to answer questions about the false Hillsborough claims, which were made on his website, and hit out at the ‘smear campaign’ against him.
He said: “I take the blame for the fact that I failed to check what was up on my website in my name, that was my fault and I apologise.
“But I will not apologise for what is a co-ordinated, cruel and almost evil smear campaign that has been directed at me.
“It is based on lies from sources who have not been named. It has been a tough week for me but I will not allow them to break me and I will not allow them to break UKIP.”
He refused to say anything about comments made by millionaire UKIP donor Arron Banks, who has said he is “sick to death of hearing” about Hillsborough, and accused some of “milking” the tragedy.
In his speech, Mr Nuttall — UKIP’s candidate in the Stoke Central by-election — pledged to slash foreign aid, cut taxes, and invest heavily in health and housing.
He added that the Labour Party has “nothing in common with the working class communities they traditionally represent” and that UKIP would replace Labour as the “voice of the patriotic working class”.
Earlier, Mr Farage said immigration is a bigger concern for voters today than during the EU referendum campaign.
He said: “People aren’t interested in arguments about the economy, in arguments about growth, in arguments politicians make about jobs, they are not interested. And do you know why? Because they simply don’t believe what they are being told.
“After all, wasn’t our economy going to fall off a cliff if we voted for Brexit?
“What people care about is national identity, what people care about is their community.
“And I’ll argue that people in this country and across the West are now beginning to see immigration as a far bigger issue than they even saw it during the referendum campaign last year.
“None of this is going away.”
Mr Farage said that Tony Blair was “yesterday’s man” after the former Prime Minister claimed he had made it his mission to persuade Britons to change their mind Brexit.
The former UKIP leader said: “He clearly hasn’t grasped that if that referendum was held tomorrow the margin would be at least three times bigger than it was in June last year.
“Blair is yesterday’s man. He’s like the heavyweight world champion who has been retired for a few years but needs a bout to make some money and he comes back and he gets knocked out in the first round.”