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Farage 'hacked off' by Bloom furore

UK Independence Party (Ukip) leader Nigel Farage admitted he was "pretty hacked off" after the actions of an outspoken MEP overshadowed its annual conference.

Godfrey Bloom had the whip withdrawn after calling women at a conference fringe event "sluts" and hitting a TV journalist with a copy of the brochure for the gathering in Westminster.

Mr Farage said Mr Bloom's antics had distracted attention from the party's core message, but stressed they could still make serious inroads at Westminster in 2015 and potentially hold the balance of power after the election.

Mr Bloom insisted the "sluts" remark was a joke but Mr Farage said the MEP, who is no stranger to controversy, had "just gone way over the line".

The Ukip leader told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "What Mr Bloom's antics have done is to distract from some of the serious things we were saying yesterday. So I'm feeling pretty hacked off about it."

Acknowledging the difficult balance involved in leading an anti-establishment party, Mr Farage said: "The toughest job of the Ukip leader is on the one hand I want us to be a party of free-thinking, I want us to push the boundaries of debate and we've been good at that on several issues.

"But at the same time I don't want people saying things that are deeply offensive and take the message away from where it needs to be. So it's a difficult balance.

"Mr Bloom has been, over the course of the summer, doing his best to garner as many headlines as possible."

In his keynote speech to the conference, which was swiftly overtaken by events surrounding Mr Bloom, Mr Farage predicted Ukip was on course to cause a political "earthquake" by winning next year's European elections and potentially breaking through in Westminster.

He told Today: "I want us to win the European elections next year and, on the same day, win hundreds of council seats to work out what our target seats are for the general election in 2015 to get a good representation of Ukip MPs in Westminster and, who knows, we might find ourselves holding the balance of power."

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