Farage seeks to broaden Ukip appeal
Nigel Farage has promised tax cuts and a grammar school "in every town" as he seeks to broaden Ukip's appeal beyond Euroscepticism.
Mr Farage confirmed that the party's previous commitment to abolish national insurance and have a flat 31% tax rate was being "rethought" - but said he believed the top band should fall from 45% to 40%.
He also insisted no-one on the minimum wage should have to pay tax.
The comments came in an interview on the BBC's Andrew Marr show after Ukip achieved major gains in local and European elections.
Mr Farage said his party was now "building up a really good representation" on councils in target constituencies for the general election.
He predicted they would focus resources on "two dozen, three dozen" seats next year, and win a "clutch" of them.
Mr Farage has already disowned the Ukip manifesto from the last general election, and said he would set out a new platform at its annual conference in Ed Miliband's Doncaster constituency in September.
He denied it would be "Thatcherite", saying the Tory doyenne's approach belonged to another era.
Deploying the "cost of living" catchphrase used by the Labour leader, Mr Farage said: "I want us to give millions of ordinary families and people in this country the opportunity to live a better life and do better.
"At the moment we are seeing the gap between those who are wealthy enough to be privately educated and the rest getting wider, and we are seeing the working population working longer and longer hours having suffered huge wage compression over the course of the last 10 years with their household bills going up.
"What we want to do actually is to genuinely address the cost of living, and to address social mobility."
There would be "no tax on the minimum wage" - although he did not specify what the minimum wage would be.
"We are going to rethink the tax thing. I think that was badly explained. What I can tell you for certain is that our biggest tax objective in that next manifesto will be no tax on the minimum wage. We have got to incentivise people to get off benefit and get back to work," he said.
Mr Farage also said he supported a "top rate of tax of about 40%".
"I think a top rate of tax in this country of around about 40% is the one that will bring the most revenue into the Exchequer," he said. "I think that's what we will conclude. Anything over 40% and I think you start to see people go overseas."
Asked whether there would be a grammar school in "every town" if Ukip were in power, the MEP replied: "Absolutely.
"The lack of social mobility in Britain is quite shaming, and selective education is one of the ways to give bright kids from poor backgrounds a real opportunity."
Mr Farage conceded that "savings" would be needed, suggesting he would take a "chainsaw" through middle management to make the NHS more efficient - although he said the party would not "necessarily" remove ring fencing from the health service budget.
"What we have got to do clearly is re-prioritise what the NHS does," he added.
Mr Farage rejected allegations that his party was racist and homophobic, after a slew of activists were criticised for offensive remarks during the campaign.
"We posed a big threat to three established parties, and they clubbed together, did everything they could to throw mud at us and abuse us in the last three weeks of that European election campaign," he said.
"We just had a gay person elected as one of our MEPS. This attempt to try and paint Ukip out to be a bunch of old men, deeply intolerant of the world, frankly does not bear the truth."
Mr Farage said he hoped to do a deal so Ukip MEPs will sit with Italian maverick Beppe Grillo's party in the European parliament.
But he ruled out a pact with the French Front National party.
"Whilst I think Marine Le Pen has taken a very different position to her father, I think that party it still has Jean-Marie Le Pen in it," he said.
Mr Farage also dismissed suggestions that he needed to behave more seriously after topping the Euro polls.
"You're right I must stop smiling, stop laughing, I must stop having opinions, I must become like the rest of the professional political class," he joked. "No chance - it isn't going to happen."
He said it was "perfectly normal" that his wife Kirsten was concerned about his pub-loving lifestyle and hectic work schedule.
"What wife in this country doesn't complain about their husband's behaviour in some way or other? I think that all perfectly normal," he added.
Mr Farage ruled out standing personally against Nick Clegg in Sheffield Hallam at the general election.
But he said he would be a candidate somewhere in the South East, describing Thanet South as a "distinct possibility".