Last weekend, research commissioned by this newspaper laid bare just how
attractive Mr Farage is becoming in Tory heartlands.

The party came second in recent by-elections held in Eastleigh, Middlesbrough
and Rotherham. In the House of Commons Conservative MPs fret with one
another about “how much Ukip” is in their constituencies.

Support for UKIP is rising after success in the recent Eastleigh

Yesterday, with his party filling the Great Hall at Exeter University, Mr
Farage mocked Westminster politicians for underestimating the party.

“A protest vote? Mid-term blues?” he bellowed. “No, we are seeing a wholesale
rejection of the career politicians. We have had enough. They all look the
same. They all sound the same. And not one of them is in politics for

He added: “They are all enthusiasts for building ugly, useless and expensive
onshore and offshore wind farms that are despoiling Britain’s landscapes and

Another bête noire of disaffected Tories is immigration.

“Nobody should be able to claim benefits until they have been in this country
for five years, paid their taxes and obeyed the law,” he said.

He reminded the delegates, many who could not find seats in the packed hall,
that he had been railing against the European Union’s love of taking other
people’s money long before last week’s plan to raid Cypriot savers as part
of the island’s botched bail-out.

“But even I thought they would never stoop to stealing from people’s bank
accounts,” Mr Farage said.

The crowd hooted with laughter at the idea of a Tory majority in 2015.

The cheer when Mr Farage ruled out any deal with the Tories under Mr Cameron
was the loudest of the day.

The Prime Minister famously dismissed the party as one of “loonies, fruitcakes
and closet racists”. But delegates yesterday bridled at the insinuation.

Winston McKenzie (LNP)

Winston McKenzie, a boxer-turned-politician, urged the party to reach out to
ethnic minority voters.

The Jamaican-born politician said that the party should not consider black and
Asian voters off limits. Many would welcome a party such as Ukip that takes
a tough stance on law order, he said.

Other keynote speakers included Diane James, the runner-up in Eastleigh, and
Slavi Binev, a Bulgarian MEP, who joked: “I have a return ticket to Sofia
and, while I am here, I am not claiming benefits.

“I have not brought my family nor my horse and cart.”

The party says it is now attracting well-heeled professionals in their
thirties and forties, just the types who could one day stand as MPs, and
some of these were in attendance.

Richard Turnell, 34, who works in insurance, joined Ukip earlier this month.
He lives in Bournville, in Birmingham, with his wife, Anna, a solicitor, and
their three-year-old son.

“David Cameron has been a great let-down,” he said. “At times, it seems he is
ignoring anyone outside London. Anna and I both work, but even we still find
it hard to cope with the cost of living.

“The Government just doesn’t seem to be helping ordinary people like us.”

Charlie Sammonds, 17, from Putney, west London, was disappointed that he could
not join the party until his 18th birthday later this year.

“Ukip is the only party with sensible policies,” he said, as he cast his eye
over Ukip memorabilia on sale. “Controlling immigration… If it continues,
the NHS will not be able to cope. Housing shortages will get worse.

“Nigel Farage is a very good speaker. He believes in democracy. The EU is very

Last week, Victoria Ayling, a former Conservative parliamentary candidate who
contested – and nearly won – Great Grimsby at the 2010 election, joined

“I have been uncomfortable for some time with the Conservatives’ policies and
leadership,” said Mrs Ayling. “The leadership has moved away not just from
party’s members, but also ordinary people who work and pay taxes.”

She was unimpressed with Mr Cameron’s deal to cut the EU’s budget, even though
it initially helped the Tories in the polls. “Britain’s contributions will
still rise,” she said.

“Then there is the debacle over gay marriage. To overturn centuries of
tradition and forget the sacrament just for a fad. Nothing against gays, but
it’s just inappropriate.

“The Government hasn’t got immigration down and because of our membership of
the EU, we are at risk of having 29 million Bulgarians and Romanians coming
to settle here.

“There are ways of preventing these migrants getting access to benefits, but I
don’t think David Cameron has the political will to do that. Instead, his
approach is based on spin and shallow promises.”

Diane James, who came second behind the Lib Dem in the Eastleigh
by-election (LNP)

Chris Lagdon, who served as a Conservative councillor in the New Forest for 12
years, is another recent defector. He described himself as a “council house
Conservative”, someone who represented

Tories from working-class backgrounds who are feeling the most pain from the
squeeze on living standards.

“I think David Cameron doesn’t get what tough times ordinary people are going
through,” he said. “He’s lost touch with real people… Perhaps he never had

A Tory party member for 15 years, Mr Lagdon doubts any prime minister could
renegotiate a good deal for Britain in Europe.

“Margaret Thatcher is a shining light to me,” he added. “If she couldn’t get a
deal for us in Europe, no one will. Mr Cameron says there will be a
referendum if he wins the next general election.

“That’s like me saying I’ll give you a million pounds if I win the pools.
I reckon the odds are about the same. Ukip have got the right idea. We
should be pulling out of Europe.”

But other defectors to Ukip insist that the party’s momentum is not down to
the EU at all. “I like Ukip’s support of grammar schools and the Armed
Forces,” said Elliot Nichols, 24, from Waverley in Surrey.

“I’m sick of David Cameron and George Osborne claiming they are making cuts
when they are actually borrowing more than Labour did.” A former
Conservative activist, he says that there is far more of a “buzz” around
Ukip meetings than those Tory meetings he attended.

“Ukip feel like they actually want to do something,” he said. “They are looking
at actually doing radical things.”

Ukip celebrates with cheers, souvenirs and a rallying call to black and Asian voters –
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