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It's a simple choice, says Farage

Nigel Farage has received a rapturous welcome on the final stop of a West Midlands campaign tour, insisting his General Election platform is "basic common sense".

Around 150 supporters packed into a Dudley rally to be told by the Ukip leader both the town's seats were winnable in May.

Mr Farage has spent the day making a series of appearances around the Black Country, promoting Ukip's defence policy and rallying his "people's army".

But the Ukip leader was met by demonstrators outside the Copthorne Hotel, protesting at "bigotry" and "racism" with banners and chants.

Former prime minister Tony Blair earlier in the day attacked Ukip's "mean-spirited" nationalist politics.

Mr Farage was also dogged by questions about Ukip's poll rating, which has dipped from its highs in the wake of last year's European Parliament elections and two Commons by-elections, all contests in which Ukip emerged the winner.

The Ukip leader will take his campaign to the East Midlands tomorrow before returning to his own tight race in South Thanet.

Speaking to supporters tonight, Mr Farage rehearsed familiar lines but won laughs and a warm standing ovation.

He said: "Tony Blair has made it clear - in this election there is a simple choice.

"It is between the political establishment of Britain, who believe it is right we are members of a political union, who are prepared to accept that 75% of our laws are made somewhere else.

"They are all over (there). And over here there is Ukip - who say we should govern our own country, control our own borders and be proud of who we are as a people."

In lines repeated back by his audience, the Ukip leader added: "What we proved in Rochester, what we proved in Clacton, is in our key target seats if you vote Ukip you will get Ukip."

Mr Farage criticised the "nasty" conduct of the election and launched a defence of Ed Miliband, protesting at the "unpleasant" attacks on the Labour leader's appearance and voice.

He told his activists politics should be about more than "tearing strips off the personality of the other side".

But he poked fun at Prime Minister David Cameron, hinting the Tory leader had dyed his "remarkable head of dark hair".

Mr Farage added: "Of course on a daily basis they all attack me and they all attack Ukip.

"But our job as a party is we have got to rise above this. We have got to rise above the negative, and the nasty and the personal.

"Anybody in this room I'm sure will agree with me that when Mr Cameron said in a big newspaper interview this morning that people should come home from Ukip, they should come back to the Conservative Party, he totally misunderstood what Ukip is."

The Ukip leader repeated his controversial remarks about health tourism and HIV patients, adding: "It's not about being mean-spirited, narrow-minded, or nationalist.

"You look after your family before you look after the family next door.

"Surely, it is the duty of government to put the defence of the realm first, it is the duty of government secondly to put the wellbeing of our own citizens first.

"Only Ukip in this election campaign is unashamedly patriotic and proud and will stand up and say let's put this country first, let's put the great back into Britain."

Earlier in the day, speaking to reporters at Himley Hall, near Dudley, Mr Farage defended his election campaign as he unveiled a new poster campaign around his defence policy.

Mr Farage has spent most of the campaign so far in South Thanet, a three way marginal in which a poll at the weekend suggested the Ukip figurehead is falling behind.

The Ukip leader said: "We are exactly where we were in August last year. After the European elections we stabilised at around 14.5% as a poll of polls.

"No political party goes up in a straight line or, even, down in a straight line. There are trends.

"The trend over the last week is we are beginning, as the short campaign for the General Election has begun, the vote is beginning to harden."

Ukip's new defence policy included enhanced support for veterans.

Mr Farage said he wanted to see the reopening of at least one dedicated military hospital for wounded veterans and those needing mental health care.

He promised housing to ensure no veteran is left homeless.

And he said a dedicated veterans' minister should be appointed outside the Ministry of Defence to coordinate work across Government.

Mr Farage also restated his demand for £16 billion extra in defence spending, meeting the Nato minimum target, paid for by slashing international aid.


From Belfast Telegraph